COVID-19: These Manitobans under 40 want to be prioritized for a coronavirus vaccine

Manitoba is continuing to prioritize its population for a COVID-19 vaccine based on age, geography and job type, while there are growing calls for a new strategy.

Tim Fennell, 39, has terminal cancer and is undergoing immunotherapy, which he was told could extend his life by a year or two if the treatment is successful.

He wants to get vaccinated as soon as possible so he can safely enjoy the time he has left, but he doesn’t currently meet the eligibility criteria in Manitoba.

“My medical situation basically doesn’t come into play at this point, they don’t consider it,” Fennell said.

Read more: Winnipeg cancer patients unable to get COVID-19 vaccine despite risks

Fennell is part of a large network of cancer patients and other immunocompromised Manitobans under 40 that are at high risk of a severe outcome should they contract COVID-19.

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All of them, he said, don’t understand why the Manitoba government hasn’t made them a priority yet.

“People with those conditions in other provinces are getting their vaccines so I just don’t understand why we’ve taken that approach,” Fennell said.

With variants of concern running rampant across much of Canada in recent weeks, there have been several reports of more pregnant women being hospitalized.

But in Manitoba, pregnant women under 40 haven’t been made a priority either.

Read more: Pregnant women not a COVID-19 vaccine priority while variants make them more sick

Jordan Farber and his pregnant wife, Heather, decided to pull their daughter out of daycare to ensure she stays safe during the final months of her pregnancy.

“Pregnant individuals and those under 40 who are considered high risk need to put on the priority list immediately,” Farber said. “A number of other provinces have recognized this and we just don’t understand why Manitoba will not do the same.”

A new government document has been posted online to help guide the conversation between clinicians and their high-risk patients, but it falls short of changing the eligibility criteria.

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province’s vaccine implementation task force, said at a Wednesday news conference that a team has been assigned to look at potentially adding certain health conditions to the priority list.

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“That’s something that our medical advisory table is looking at right now,” Reimer said.

“It’s a challenging assessment because there are so many different health conditions and so much variation even within a health condition.”

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