'Beyond frustrated': Frontline health care workers eligible for second dose say they cant access vaccine
TORONTO -- Mairead Cavanagh’s 12-year-old son Maleek is medically-fragile, requiring around-the-clock home care by nurses and personal support workers, but his mother says despite being officially eligible for their second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, the health-care staff who enter their home can’t access their second shots.
“I’m beyond frustrated,” said Mairead Cavanagh. “Here we are now, scrambling to get the priority second dose for our team.”
The Ontario government announced May 10 that high-risk health care workers, including patient-facing staff working in homes and the community, had been added to the list of people eligible to receive their second dose of vaccine sooner than the province’s standard four-month interval.
But Cavanagh says despite her determination to find second doses for her son’s healthcare team, no clinic has been able to accept them.
“Somewhere along the way there’s a miscommunication, because none of the hospitals or vaccine clinics or services are updating to reflect that policy,” she told CTV Toronto.
Miryam Cohen, a 29-year-old community health care worker who provides patient-facing therapy to people with disabilities, has had the same experience. She was told by the province’s vaccine booking hotline that it could not schedule sooner second doses, even for those who qualify.
She has also been turned away three times trying to access her booster shot at a clinic.
“I don’t really understand the discrepancy,” Cohen said. She was hospitalized with COVID-19 in December and fears catching or transmitting the virus without the protection of her second dose.
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, where Cohen got her first shot in March, told CTV News Toronto that it is reaching out to eligible healthcare workers who received their initial doses there to book sooner second doses—but that it will take time.
“Our vaccine clinic has a very high number of people who booked as health-care workers,” reads a statement on its website. “The timing of outreach and rebookings will be based on vaccine supply.”
Street nurse Anne Marie Batten, meanwhile, says despite her eligibility as a high-risk health care worker she cannot move up her second-dose appointment.
“In the good old days of H1N1, street nurses were contacted and vaccinated quickly so we could continue to help our most vulnerable,” she wrote in a tweet. “COVID times, booking clerk says he can't help us and sarcastically wishes us well in our endeavours.”
The Ministry of Health did not respond to CTV News Toronto request for comment Thursday.