Fully vaccinated Sask. senior fights for life, arthritis drug thought to have reduced COVID-19 vaccine efficacy

A fully-vaccinated Saskatoon senior is fighting for her life after testing positive for COVID-19.

Her family believes a drug she relies on for her arthritis treatment may have lowered the vaccine’s efficacy.

“My mother is in a state right now that we don't know if she is going to live. She is that ill,” Beatrice Bellegarde’s daughter Charlene Cote told CTV News.

On Aug. 19 Bellegarde's family took her to hospital thinking she had come down with the flu. However, a rapid test revealed she had COVID-19.

She has been in the ICU at Royal University Hospital since Aug. 22.

"(On Aug. 27) she was intubated so the ventilator is doing all the breathing for her,” said Cote.

“When my mom was diagnosed with COVID I was really surprised because like I said we were double vaccinated, we thought we were safe.”

Bellegarde has rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis and takes Methotrexate.

“The doctors have explained to me that Methotrexate blocks the efficacy of the vaccination, Cote said.

Kelly Kizlyk, a pharmacist with medSask says people taking immunosuppressant medications like methotrexate may have a lower immune system response to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“What that means is these medications can dampen or lessen our natural immune response, said Kizlyk.

“So it makes sense that if someone is taking a medication that somehow modifies or changes their immune response. Then there is the potential for it to affect how their body might respond … to that vaccine.”

Kizlyk recommends people taking immunosuppressive medications consult with their doctor or pharmacists to ensure they know the level of protection the vaccines provide.

He emphasizes the vaccines still provide an important barrier to shield against the illness.

“It's still important to recognize that vaccination is an important part of our COVID-19 layers of protection,” said Kizlyk.

“It also might be appropriate, offer an additional response and this is something that in Saskatchewan our government is already starting to respond to.

The province began offering additional "booster" shot on Sept. 7 to immunocompromised individuals.

Cote said she's sure her mother would welcome a third dose.

“I’m quite positive that she would get the third shot,” said Cote.

Cote is also critical of those who are able to get a COVID-19 vaccine but haven't, increasing the risk for vulnerable people like her mother.

"I think it’s socially irresponsible when people are not vaccinating because they can get COVID and pass it on to other people.”