Man with chronic condition hopes for leniency under vaccine rollout plan

·6 min read
Dylan Murphy says he hopes there is room under Phase 2 of Newfoundland and Labrador's vaccine rollout plan for people who have chronic conditions but who have not been hospitalized in the last year. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP - image credit)
Dylan Murphy says he hopes there is room under Phase 2 of Newfoundland and Labrador's vaccine rollout plan for people who have chronic conditions but who have not been hospitalized in the last year. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP - image credit)

Newfoundland and Labrador's vaccine rollout plan, released Friday, outlined who would be next on the list to receive inoculations — but one man with a chronic lung condition hopes there will be exemptions under Phase 2 for people like him who might not be seriously ill but who could be considered vulnerable.

Dylan Murphy, 27, has primary ciliary dyskinesia, which he says is similar to cystic fibrosis in the way it attacks the lungs.

"The main thing with that is the cilia in the lungs that move out waste, like pollutants or mucus or whatever, are very rigid, and they don't really work as well. So it's a lot of congestion, a lot of chronic cough," Murphy said.

"A common cold sort of feels like my day to day. I do generally have a lot of congestion, dizziness, aches and pains, whatever, that come with a flu, but it's just something that I manage fairly well. But when I do get sick, it just like ramps it up to another level and it can be bad."

Under Phase 2 of the province's vaccination plan, people between the ages of 16 and 69 who have serious health conditions — defined as having been hospitalized in the last year — can receive the vaccine. The provincial government also launched an online portal for people over the age of 70 to register.

I would just kind of urge them to take another look at things and maybe see if there's some way to fit exceptions under that rule. - Dylan Murphy

When news of the pandemic first spread last year, Murphy picked up his life in St. John's and moved back to his hometown on the Burin Peninsula, where the risk of exposure was lower, in order to keep himself healthy.

While it's a chronic condition, Murphy said he has a specialist that he sees, and he also follows regular physiotherapy exercises to minimize the effects of his condition, so, in his case, he has not been hospitalized with it.

Murphy said he thinks that will mean he won't be eligible for the vaccine until Phase 3.

"Friday when that plan came out — I mean I don't want to throw this term around lightly, but it does sort of feel a little bit discriminatory that like, I'm doing really well with my condition, but now that means that … now I have to wait until potentially June or later," he told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

Vaccine supply has been a challenge across Canada, leaving provincial and territorial health authorities waiting to receive doses.

Murphy said he understands that the most vulnerable need to be prioritized in the first stages, but hopes there may be some room for people like him who may be healthy, but who also live with a chronic health condition.

"I do think, yes, they are prioritizing the ones who need it most, but I mean, at the same time, I kind of feel like, if someone with cystic fibrosis was to — they are more serious than my condition — but the diseases attack the lungs in the same way, so why are we not being prioritized in the same way?" Murphy said.

Public health officials, said Murphy, are "doing an amazing job, a great job."

"I would just kind of urge them to take another look at things and maybe see if there's some way to fit exceptions under that rule, maybe a note from a doctor saying this person's at a higher risk, even though they are doing generally well."

Doctors not yet done: NLMA

Lynette Powell, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, said many doctors in the metro area haven't yet been inoculated.

"Our preference would be to see our community-based physicians who are not vaccinated in Phase 1 done early in Phase 2, because they obviously have contact with some very vulnerable populations," Powell said.

Those doctors often work in places where they could easily spread the virus, Powell said, adding many of them will likely step up to administer vaccinations in Phase 3.

The president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, Dr. Lynette Powell, says doctors should be high on the list in Phase 2.
The president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, Dr. Lynette Powell, says doctors should be high on the list in Phase 2.(CBC)

She said anyone with a chronic condition, such as heart or respiratory disease, should be considered a priority of that stage.

"if you have a chronic illness ... we know that the risk of complications with the disease that comes from COVID-19 is more severe," she said.

"It's very important that those people are vaccinated, and hopefully we'll see that happen early in the rollout of Phase 3."

'It's definitely a challenging job'

Another group that will be eligible under Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout plan, expected to roll out between April and June if vaccine supply remains steady, is front-line workers like transport truck drivers, who have to travel for their jobs.

Elaine Noseworthy said she and her husband are both truck drivers, and she welcomed the inclusion of drivers in the latest stage of the rollout plan.

"We have a lot of drivers that are of [that] age or have health problems, and I think it's a good idea that we are implementing this vaccine for the ones who can get it or want it," she said.

"It's definitely a challenging job for us, but I think it's a really good idea."

Truck drivers have said the pandemic has been a tough time; in the early days, when things were totally locked down, they were unable to get food while on the road, or even use washroom facilities, while delivering an essential service.

Volunteer Darlene Collier brings a hot meal, one of dozens prepared each day, to a truck driver in April 2020.
Volunteer Darlene Collier brings a hot meal, one of dozens prepared each day, to a truck driver in April 2020.(Submitted by Rene Loveless)

While things have gotten slightly easier, Noseworthy said it's been "a lot of challenges in the last year."

"At first it was a lot of inconsistency with mask wearing, not wearing a mask in different provinces. Lockdowns are hard. It's difficult sometimes knowing what phase each province is in," she told CBC Newfoundland Morning.

"We kind of have no choice but to deal with it, so we kind of look at the pros of everything instead of the cons."

Noseworthy hopes a vaccine will make things a little easier for drivers like her and her husband on the road.

"I just hope that we do come to some normalcy … so we can get back and stop worrying so much," she said.

"If the vaccine can give us that normalcy, then I think you'll see a lot of drivers take it."

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