Many rural seniors are having to travel a long way to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Stettler residents are being told to go to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose. (Black Press file photo).

Many rural seniors are having to travel a long way to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Stettler residents are being told to go to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose. (Black Press file photo).

Rural central Alberta seniors have to travel far to get vaccines

Stettler residents are being directed to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose clinics

A 100-year-old senior was told recently to travel to Camrose to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in the absence of any local clinics in Stettler.

But enduring an hour’s drive twice to get two doses of vaccine is simply not feasible for her, said Jan Richardson, a relative who also lives in Stettler.

Richardson noted it would be a great ordeal for her husband’s aunt, who hasn’t left her house since September.

The Stettler centenarian instead intends to wait to get her two doses of vaccination until a local clinic opens.

Richardson wants Alberta Health Services to know that not all seniors who live outside of lodges or nursing homes are able to travel a long way to get inoculated against the coronavirus.

Seniors are already at high health risk during this pandemic, and expecting them to leave their communities means putting them at higher risk to get vaccinated, Richardson added.

“These aren’t just numbers, they are real people — and it impacts their caregivers too, who have real lives and have to spend the whole day driving them.”

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Richardson and her husband live near his aunt and help her to continue living at home. A home care worker also comes to assist a few times a week.

Richardson doesn’t understand why Stettler’s home care workers, pharmacists — or even community health nurses that give out other kinds of vaccinations — aren’t being given the authority to vaccinate people against COVID-19 locally in Stettler.

AHS stated on Tuesday that plans are underway to open immunization clinics in Stettler and Consort “in the coming days, when more vaccine becomes available.”

According to AHS, there are now 67 active AHS immunization clinics located in a mix of facilities across the province. “AHS is making every effort to allow individuals to receive the vaccine as close to their residence as possible. However, in some areas, travel may be required.”

Wendy Kossowan, of Stettler, recently helped her 83-year-old father, who uses a wheelchair, drive to Camrose to get his first shot.

The trip was a little hard on him, she admitted, but it went smoothly because the weather was mild, the roads were clear, and the appointment was booked for a Sunday.

Kossowan or her brother will be making another trip out to Camrose to help their father get his second shot. And this appointment is scheduled for a Thursday, so it will be more tricky to get time off of work, she added.

Kossowan is more concerned about how her 85-year-old mother-in-law, who has a “phobia” of travelling, will get the vaccines. She’s hoping that AHS will soon open a clinic in Stettler.

AHS affirmed that’s the plan when more vaccine becomes available — and more supply is expected to arrive soon.

“We anticipate having all Alberta seniors age 75 and older immunized by early April.”

AHS is also discussing future options, including distributing vaccines through community physicians “or the use of large-scale mass immunization clinics.”

In the meantime, seniors who need transportation can call 211 for available options.

AHS states people who are immobile and unable to make arrangements to get to a vaccination clinic should discuss with their families and health care providers what additional arrangement can be made.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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