'I was in tears': Toronto health-care worker says she was turned away from her COVID-19 vaccination appointment

A Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose is prepared in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

A health-care worker in Toronto says she was unable to get her COVID-19 vaccine after she was turned away from her booked appointment to receive the shot at a local hospital.

The private behavioral therapist, who asked only to be identified as Allison for privacy reasons, said she has been watching the rising case numbers in the province and wanted to act fast to get vaccinated.

“I'm starting to get anxious and nervous, not even so much for myself, I'm 36 years old, but if I end up getting it, my ability to spread it is absolutely astronomical,” she said speaking to CTV News Toronto.

Allison said her work requires her to travel to patients’ homes across the city. Some of those patients include vulnerable adults with cognitive, developmental, and physical health issues, which she says puts them at a higher risk of catching COVID-19.

Moreover, as a resident of Thorncliffe Park, a neighbourhood that the city says has been disproportionately impacted by the transmission of the novel coronavirus, Allison said she wanted to do her part to protect her community and booked her appointment to get vaccinated.

After visiting the province’s COVID-19 vaccine booking portal, Allison said she was directed to contact Toronto Public Health (TPH), who assured her that she qualified to get vaccinated. In an email to CTV News Toronto, TPH confirmed that behavioural therapists are indeed eligible to get the shot.

With that in mind, Allison said she travelled to Sunnybrook Hospital by public transit for her appointment on March 28.

“I took the day off work to do this. It was pouring rain,” explained Allison as she arrived at the clinic.

Allison said she brought with her a business statement that described the private work that she does. As well, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) that she works under wrote a letter confirming her status as a behavioral therapist.

She said that an administrator at the hospital looked over her information and quickly reviewed it behind closed doors.

“Two seconds later, she comes back, I don't even know if she had enough time to speak to someone and goes, ‘I'm sorry, but unfortunately, today, I cannot give you a vaccine at this time.’”

Allison said she was told she could not get the vaccine because she does not “belong to an actual organization.”

To make matters worse, Allison said that a family member died on Saturday night. She said she was unable to make the trip to pay her respects in person and elected to do so by video call instead.

“I had the opportunity to go up to Newmarket to say goodbye, and I didn’t because I knew it would be hard for me to get back into the city to have my vaccine on Sunday,” she said.

“The fact that I didn't get my vaccine, that I stayed here to do the right thing to protect my community, and lost the opportunity to say goodbye in person, it's absolutely disgusting.”

Allison went onto say that if she was told she wouldn’t be able to get the shot when she booked the appointment on Thursday, she would have understood.

“I inconvenienced myself by taking time off work, and then the fact that this happened, and I didn't get to say goodbye…Now I have one less person in my life and no vaccine. I was in tears. I was in tears.”

CTV News Toronto contacted Sunnybrook for a comment on Allison’s experience, but it has yet to provide one.