NORTH BAY — Greg Richardson says the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit has let his family down when it comes to their high-risk son receiving his first COVID-19 vaccination.
"The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit has failed this group miserably," Richardson told BayToday.
His son, Tyler Richardson, is a 22-year-old with cerebral palsy and a lung disorder and, according to the province's COVID-19 vaccine rollout, qualifies for a vaccine in Stage One of the process.
Richardson says it's a problem among many other North Bay area residents who receive chronic home health care like Tyler.
See related: Falling through the vaccination cracks
After trying to follow numerous steps through the process over the past two months and not getting many answers, the family decided to try and get his vaccination done elsewhere.
"I decided to call Sudbury Manitoulin HU on Tuesday evening to inquire about a vaccine for Tyler," said Greg.
"I was told that he definitely fits under two very high-risk demographics in phase 1; those with high-risk medical conditions and those receiving chronic home health care. When I informed them we were from North Bay, I was told I had to deal with NBPSHU. I then explained our situation locally and how this group had been skipped over and ignored even though they were slotted in the NBPSHU phase 1."
Richardson says the call taker with the Sudbury Health Unit passed their issue to her supervisor to see if an exception could be made.
"Sudbury Health Unit was appalled that this had happened to Tyler," he said.
"I was informed Tyler’s demographic was done in Sudbury with the 80+ age groups some time ago.
"A couple of hours later I received a phone call from the supervisor that not only will they vaccinate Tyler, but will also vaccinate me as his essential caregiver, which was something I did not ask for.
"We are beyond thrilled and so appreciative of the kindness and compassion showed to Tyler by the Sudbury/Manitoulin Health Unit. We are forever grateful.
While they are thrilled with the Sudbury Health Unit, they are even more disappointed in the local health unit for not coming through for them.
It is extremely disappointing that this group was neglected and skipped over by the NBPSHU," said Richardson in an email to BayToday.
"Yes, they can claim a lack of vaccine supply, but one would think the CMO (Jim Chirico) has the authority to designate vaccine to the groups his HU determined to be the most vulnerable before moving on to the general population.
"Instead It was decided to skip over this group while providing zero communication as to why or to what was forthcoming. This is a group that faces struggle on a daily basis. Is it really necessary to make them and their families fight for something so essential to their survival?"
BayToday reached out to the Health Unit for comment on Richardson's situation and received this blanket statement in reply.
"The province has announced that certain individuals with health conditions will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination during Phase 2," the statement from the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit stated.
"The Health Unit continues to offer vaccination to adults born in 1961 or before and very high priority health care workers, as well as continuing to vaccinate individuals in Phase 1 who have not yet received their first dose of vaccine. If this individual is born in 1961 or before, they are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.
"The Health Unit continues to advocate for greater access to COVID-19 vaccine allocation. The pace at which the Health Unit can move through the priority groups is dependent on vaccine shipments received locally, and is impacted by any provincial delays in the COVID-19 vaccine shipment."
Richardson hopes by creating awareness for this situation, it will help others who may have been overlooked too.
"While we are pleased for our own personal situation, this does not solve the problem for the many other people in similar situations in our region," said Greg.
"Tyler and his family will continue to advocate on their behalf."
Tyler receives his long-awaited first shot on April 23 in Sudbury and his second August 13.