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Mixup has some people being turned away for vaccine booster despite invitation

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Sandra and David Sneddon of Qualicum Beach booked their COVID-19 booster shots only to be told it was too soon yet they continue to receive invitations via email to book their third shot. Submitted

Even though she had been invited to come in, Sandra Sneddon was turned away this week from the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre for her COVID-19 booster shot. She then received an email advising that her vaccine was waiting.

She had received an initial email Oct. 31 inviting her to book her COVID booster. She scheduled it for Nov. 2. When she turned up at the civic centre, clinic staff said she didn’t qualify yet.

“What’s going to happen if this is going on across the entire province,” Sneddon, 72, said in an interview.

When she arrived home from the civic centre, she told husband David Sneddon, 84, who cancelled his Nov. 4 appointment. The couple received their second shots in Parksville in June, five months ago. Health officials have said boosters should be received six months after the second shot.

“We were told that many people had been turned away under the same circumstances,” said Sandra Sneddon.

David Sneddon said the big question is, are vaccines being wasted? “What in the world are they doing with the vaccines for the appointments that no one’s showing up to?”

The couple contacted the COVID Get Vaccinated centre at 1-833-838-2323 and said they were told “there is a problem in the computer system and since Oct 29 the computer has been sending out these notices to people by mistake before their six-months period.”

Having cancelled both of their appointments, they continue to get notices to book. “Sandra, your third dose is waiting for you,” read an email received at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, in a scrum on Wednesday, said no vaccine is being wasted because of the problem. Dix said he’s heard of a couple cases of people being invited for boosters before they were eligible “and we’re looking into it but if you get invited to get the vaccine then you should be able to get your vaccination.”

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister and executive lead for the province’s COVID vaccination program, has explained that some people would be invited “slightly before six months” in order to regulate demand, said Dix.

To the extent that there’s been a bit of a problem, “we’re going to fix it shortly,” said Dix.

On Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said boosters are being given based on risk, starting with seniors and staff in long-term care, seniors in the community, people with compromised immune systems, and people who received two doses of AstraZeneca.

Boosters will soon be available to everyone six months after their second dose.

Generally, the data shows COVID vaccine protection is lasting seven and eight months “so the vast majority of people are not eligible right now for a booster dose,” she said.

The province reported 430 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, including 47 new cases in Island Health, for a total of 4,373 active cases. Six-hundred and thirty-two active cases are on the Island.

The province also announced six new deaths bringing the death toll from the pandemic to 2,192 people. One death was reported in Island Health.

From Oct. 19 to Nov. 1, of those hospitalized with COVID, 72.4 per cent were not fully vaccinated.

Eighty-five per cent of people eligible to receive the COVID vaccine are fully vaccinated with two doses.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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