Medical experts calling on Ontario to rethink when and how 2nd COVID-19 vaccine doses are given

When it comes to getting a second shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, many people are keeping their fingers crossed their delayed appointments will proceed as expected, or that they get it even sooner.

Starting in March, many seniors who received a first dose were caught with cancelled second shot appointments and re-booked for 16 weeks later — a practice that has become common given supply challenges.

Jack and Mim Pinkus experienced this first hand. Days before their chance to be fully immunized, the Pinkus’ received a confirmation email the appointment was happening, but still wanted to make sure everything was in order.

Read more: ‘Completely wrong’: Anger over COVID-19 vaccine second dose delay for seniors

“We thought we better check,” said Mim. “Sure enough, our son checked into it, and he said there’s been a blip, and the appointment was cancelled.”

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The couple said living through the pandemic has been a struggle. The idea of getting both doses was the light at the end of what has been a dark tunnel. The Pinkus’ have not set foot inside a store for more than year, relying on their children to bring them groceries and medication.

“We are just so used to going and being with people,” said Mim. “Thank goodness we have things like Zoom, but it’s like we’re in prison.”

“Originally we were designated as the most vulnerable section of the population,” said Jack. “After we got our first shot, it seems like they completely forgot about us.”

Read more: COVID-19: Priority populations can begin booking second doses Monday in Saskatchewan

Jack and Mim are not alone. Many seniors have been caught in the same situation. Some people have dates for second shot appointments, others are still waiting to hear when it will be their turn.

Medical experts, including Dr. Peter Juni, the scientific director with the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, said the province now needs to start rethinking how and when second doses will be administered.

With increased supply, Juni said the loop for second shots need to be closed for at-risk seniors, essential workers, and others with medical conditions.

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“Those people and people in congregate settings actually get their second vaccine dose very early,” said Juni. “[This should happen] perhaps before we move to 12-14 year old students. We need to just make sure that we have that part covered.”

Read more: Ontario high-risk health-care workers eligible for 2nd COVID-19 vaccine dose at shortened interval

ER physician Dr. Lisa Salamon said vaccine clinics should also be given more freedom to manage their vaccine supply, and be allowed to pivot appropriately to administer second doses when it makes sense.

“Some of these people have been waiting two-and-half, three months without a second dose. We need to look at those groups and we need to make it easy,” said Salamon.

“We need to be able to have the permission to say if you have the capacity, then please go ahead and do what you think is right as an organization in your local areas.”

Jack and Mim will celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary in August.

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They hope to have a little more of their pre-pandemic lives back by then so they can celebrate with family.

“We are hoping that by some miracle we will be able to get a dose sooner and start living again,” said Mim.

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