Details on the rollout of COVID-19 in the Maritime provinces have started to take shape.
While the plans differ slightly between New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I., putting elderly Maritimers at the front of the line is a common goal for all three provinces.
While nobody seems to be criticizing the decision to protect seniors, there is another segment of society feeling very vulnerable.
Young Maritimers with serious, chronic health problems say it’s not about being at the front of the line, it’s about being included.
Sydney Mines, N.S. resident Matthew MacDonald has spent the entire pandemic living in a safe space in his home, separated from his family.
The 28-year-old lives with Marfan Syndrome, putting him at high risk during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“People like me have made pretty big sacrifices in this last year,” says Matthew.
“He hasn’t been hugged in 11 months,” adds Matthew’s mother Beth.
On Thursday, Matthew left his home for the second time in 11 months for a doctors appointment.
MacDonald’s mother Beth believes youth who live with serious and chronic health problems should be in a priority group to receive the vaccine.
“He’s absolutely more vulnerable than my husband and I who are both healthy,” says Beth. “As it stands right now, we’re first in line, we’re ahead of him just because we’re older, which doesn’t make sense to me.”
Health officials say the greatest risk factor for COVID-19 is age, which is what will determine who gets immunized and when.
Nova Scotia plans to hold the first community based clinic for those 80 years and older later this month.
“When we get a secure and robust vaccine supply, we’re anticipating that towards the end of April or start of May, we will be increasing the ways Nova Scotians can get their vaccine,” says Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.
Spencer MacKay says while healthcare workers should be at the top of the list, it’s important for public health to recognize people living with high risk medical conditions, regardless of their age.
The 23-year-old filmmaker was born with a rare form of dwarfism.
“I don’t want to take anyone’s spot away from them,” says MacKay. “We all deserve to have that safety and protection. I just want to make sure that we’re included in those measures as well.”
Matthew agrees, saying he’s not looking to skip the line, but just wants to be part of the plan.
“I do want to be recognized that I am a higher risk,” says Matthew. “I should be, based on all of Health Canada, I should be in a priority group, and right now there’s no plan to even come up with a plan to get people like me vaccinated.”
He and his mother are urging the new Liberal leader and Premier of Nova Scotia to look into the matter and make youth living with serious medical conditions on of the top priority groups during the vaccine roll-out.
A plea to public health, so young Maritimers like Spencer and Matthew can feel safer, and their lives return to some normalcy as we navigate the pandemic.