After a long wait, it was the news Marryanne Marriott had been hoping for.
Last week, she learned that residents of Earls Court Village, the London, Ont. care home where her brother Ron lives, would receive their COVID-19 vaccinations on Friday, Jan. 15.
It was welcome news after what’s been a long, painful year for anyone who lives in long-term care or has a loved one who does. The pandemic has taken a terrible toll on seniors residences and loved ones — often unable to visit — have been eager to see vaccinations happen as Ontario endures a deadly second wave of infection.
The vaccination clinic at Earls Court is part of the province’s plan to have all long-term care home residents vaccinated by the mid-February.
However, the day before Ron Marriott was to receive his shot, Marryanne was told he wouldn’t be getting it along with everyone else at Earls Court.
Ron had a mild case of COVID-19 back in April, 2020, and was able to recover. However, the Middlesex London Health Unit (MLHU) has decided that with the vaccine supply still far short of demand, anyone with a history of past infection won’t get the vaccine in the initial rollout.
‘I thought it was wrong’
The policy came as frustrating news to Marriott who found no mention of the policy — or the reasoning behind it — on the health unit’s website.
“I thought it was wrong,” Marriott said of the policy. “I could not find anything that supported it and found it very difficult to find anything in type that said: ‘This is the decision that’s been made.'”
When asked about the policy Monday, MLHU medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie said cases of COVID-19 re-infection are rare.
“Most people [who’ve tested positive before] have some immunity, at least for a few months,” said Mackie. “At his point, because vaccine doses are so scarce, we’re prioritizing them for those who haven’t tested positive before.”
Re-infection rates for COVID-19 and the duration of immunity after infection or vaccination are the subject of intense study, but there remains many unanswered questions.
Mackie said those who’ve tested positive before will become eligible for vaccinations later in the campaign.
Still, news that vaccination teams are leaving care homes without giving the shot to every resident who wants one comes as a surprise to many.
Immunity no guarantee, NDP says
London-Fanshawe MPP Theresa Armstrong issued a news release about the policy on Tuesday, and said care home residents should be able to get the vaccine when it’s offered in their residences.
“We simply cannot guarantee that these very vulnerable people have any immunity to the virus,” she said. “First you live through your worst nightmare after finding out your loved one has COVID-19 and then you find out that they won’t be receiving the vaccine. It’s horrific to even imagine.”
Marriott is a member of the Earl’s Court family council, a group of relatives that work with the home’s administrators to ensure their loved owns are receiving the best care.
Marriott says Earls Court, which has been hit by two separate COVID-19 outbreaks that are now resolved, has done a good job in what’s been a difficult year.
She says all seniors in care deserve to be vaccinated, regardless of whether they’ve had the virus before.
“I think a decision that does not protect care home residents with all they’ve gone through is a hard one to get past,” she said.