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NAVIGATING REGISTRATION FOR VACCINATION

Scheduling an appointment to receive a COVID vaccination and arranging for assistance to get you to and from the clinic can prove frustrating and confusing for some seniors. – Shutterstock. Disclaimer: Gerald J. Roy is the author’s father.

PORT AUX BASQUES – Despite the confusion thats been swirling around the AstraZeneca vaccine in the last number of weeks, Gerald Roy, has no hesitation about receiving his dose. The senior, who is 77 and a lifelong smoker, is considered at high risk of contracting serious complications from COVID-19.

Despite this, he will take any vaccine that is offered, even the Astra-Zeneca.

“I don’t really care. One shot is as good as the other at my age.”

He doesn’t leave the house much these day anyway, other the odd trip to visit the doctor or get a haircut. He no longer does his own shopping and hasn’t for quite some time.

“I’m kind of afraid that anything could happen. We live in an area where a lot of people come in from the ferry, and they may linger around town. COVID can so easily travel around this town, and that’s the reason I’m afraid to go out without a vaccine.”

His fears were realized over the winter thanks to an outbreak that was determined to have originated on the MV Blue Puttees, although that burst of cases was controlled rather quickly. Last week Public Health issued an alert after a Marine Atlantic travel-related case was discovered in the Western Health region, though as of publication no others connected to that sailing had been reported.

But with the continued ease of pandemic restrictions and the re-opening of inter-provincial Atlantic travel, Roy is keenly aware that he lives in a town that has branded itself as “Gateway to Newfoundland”.

The first day he was able to register for a COVID vaccination appointment, Roy signed up.

The process can be a little daunting for seniors like Roy who might not be truly technologically savvy when it comes to emails.

Those who wish to register must navigate the provincial website, enter personal information, and select a preferred method of communication to get confirmed for the queue.

Roy had his daughter help him register, and selected a telephone call as his preferred means of communication for exactly this reason.

“I’ve been waiting and waiting, and there was no appointment available, and nobody ever got back to me,” said Roy.

“I asked for initial contact by phone, which never came. Finally last week I was advised by email that an appointment would be available at the Lions Club. I just had to go on their web portal to book it.”

When he had his son attempt to book the appointment, the system could not find him an available appointment. Port aux Basques had been booked solid.

“I asked my kids to verify with Western Health what was going on, since they said I was eligible. They suggested that we keep checking the portal link every morning and evening, so that when a spot came up, I could get my shot.”

This writer spoke to a very helpful lady at the provincial toll free line who did her best to find Roy a slot, but being unable to do so, suggested instead that he keep checking until an available appointment came up.

“Finally this morning, (Wednesday, Apr. 7) we got an appointment confirmation.”

Roy is scheduled to receive his vaccination next Wednesday, Apr. 14.

He has no concerns about which version of the vaccine he gets, as long as he gets one.

“I don’t expect to have any problems. And at any rate, if I were to decline this vaccination, then by the time I get another appointment, 4 or 5 months down the road, it may be the same shot anyway, so I might as well get it now.”

One day after Roy successfully booked his appointment, he received his phone call re-confirming that appointment.

That same day Health Minister Dr. John Haggie and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald announced that extra and unexpected doses of vaccines had been shipped to the province.

The additional AstraZeneca-Oxford doses are being given out by Western Health and Central Health to people age 55 to 64, but Roy’s age means he will receive the Moderna vaccine.

On Friday, Apr. 2, Haggie also spoke out to allay concerns from some seniors in the 80+ age group who feared they had been overlooked after registering but had not yet received an appointment, assuring seniors that they would not be missed.

Meanwhile Western Health has also announced an expanded number of clinics, including in Burgeo, Port aux Basques and Deer Lake.

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