'I’d love to': Calgary senior asks for exception to get AstraZeneca

Health Canada cautions people with allergies to any of the ingredients in COVID-19 vaccines not to get that version of the shot, but people can't choose what they get and that's stopping some from getting protection during the pandemic.

Monika Rieger became vaccine-eligible March 15 but is still trying to get a shot a month later because Alberta is only offering her age group Pfizer or Moderna, which Rieger can't take due to allergies.

“The probability that I am allergic is way too high for me to take the chance,” she said.

One Calgary doctor says only people with severe allergies need to worry.

“In the situation where somebody is anaphylactic to a particular vaccine they should definitely not get the vaccine they are anaphylactic to,” explained Dr. Jia Hu, clinical assistant professor at University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine.

Rieger said she is anaphylactic so asked for AstraZeneca instead but the 72-year-old was unsuccessful.

Canadian guidelines recommend AstraZeneca for people over the age of 55, but Alberta caps it at age 64.

Rare cases of blood clots in people who have gotten this vaccine have created some hesitancy, so many doctors are working to dispel fears. Dr. Hu is the chair of 19 to Zero, a group trying to shift public perception around COVID-19 behaviours and vaccination. 

“Whenever you are eligible for any vaccine you should get it. We are entering a third wave here,” he said.

Rieger is ready to roll up her sleeve.

“Jason Kenney gets out and says, please everyone take their vaccine, take the AstraZeneca it's safe,"Rieger said, "and I’m like, I'd love to!”

She said her doctor has tried calling pharmacies asking if Rieger can get AstraZeneca but that hasn't worked. The senior hopes exceptions can be made for people with medical reasons.

“My risk of catching COVID and ending up in the hospital, because I have other medical issues, is so high that I’m willing to take the risk of the vaccine.”

Rieger said she has now contacted her MLA and Alberta’s health minister asking for the AstraZeneca vaccine.