When will 97-year-old Edmund Beagley get his vaccine?
That was the question posed to me by the Chilliwack resident’s daughter.
“Is your father in a long-term care home or facility of some kind?” I asked.
“No my father lives alone in his own home,” Mary Doherty responded from her home in Dunstable, just outside of London, England. “With no help due to the virus. He used to have paid help once a week but that stopped early 2020.
“He had his flu jab in November at Save-On-Foods. Where will he need to register?”
Um, I thought, I should know this. Shouldn’t we know by now when and where people over the age of 80 are getting their COVID-19 vaccinations?
Quite often readers or other members of the public ask me/us questions for which we have quick answers. Sometimes we don’t know the answer, but a little research lets us help them out. And if Ms. Doherty is asking a question about her nearly 100-year-old father in Chilliwack, I should be able to figure it out for her and for him.
If you have read this far looking for answers, I’m sorry. I don’t have them.
But I did ask Fraser Health.
“I checked into this and our planning process for mass vaccination clinics is currently underway in alignment with Phase 2 of B.C’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan,” that from a Fraser Health spokesperson last Friday. “We will have more to share about our plans in the coming weeks.”
I followed up: “I do understand that Phase 2 is set to begin in March with people over 80, but I’m hung up on the question of how do you track down all the people who live alone who are over 80? The daughter of the gentleman I’ve been communicating with says her father is 97, lives alone…. She (and he) are wondering how they will be notified?”
The response: “I checked with our team and they had no information to share with me that was finalized. I’ll let you know when I have something to share.”
Sorry Mr. Beagley, sorry Ms. Doherty, as of Feb. 22, no information to share about when you will get vaccinated.
Still none as of Feb. 24.
Throughout this week, this subject has garnered considerable media attention. The latest from public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Wednesday: “We have not forgotten you. These plans are in place and we will be reaching out to you in the coming days and weeks.”
The BC Centre for Disease Control website says: “starting in mid-February, Health Authorities will reach out to seniors 80 years and older to provide information on how to pre-register for immunization appointments for phase 2 of the vaccine rollout in B.C.”
If Edmund Beagley still lived in the country where he lived for the first 57 years of his life, he would have been vaccinated weeks ago. As of Feb. 14, 94 per cent of people over the age of 70 had received their first vaccine doses in England.
“The speedy rollout of the vaccine to all vulnerable people is seen as critical to reducing the pandemic’s death toll and relieving pressure on the NHS,” the BBC reported on Feb. 18.
“Overall, around 16.5 million people have now received a first dose in the UK. More than 573,724 of those have received a second dose. This progress means the UK continues to be among the countries with the highest vaccination rates globally.”
There is no other way to put it: The vaccine rollout program across Canada is taking way too long for a wealthy nation.
“It is extremely stressful for my father as I’m sure it is for so many people,” Doherty told me. “You can probably imagine how helpless and difficult it is for us his children in the UK. The vaccination program (in England) seems to be so far ahead of Canada.”
On Feb. 8, Dr. Henry first said that people over age 80 will receive information “in the coming days and weeks.”
Yet still no details.
I know it’s complicated and I know health officials are working around the clock to arrange mass vaccination clinics. But for the most vulnerable, this has not been good enough.
Dr. Henry says people like Beagley shouldn’t feel forgotten, but he does.
“My dad emigrated to Canada 40 years ago for a better life,” Doherty told me.
“Now he feels forgotten.”
Paul Henderson is editor of the Chilliwack Progress.