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Island woman on fence books vaccine due to brother’s death

It wasn’t as easy as she hoped to sign up for a COVID vaccine, but one Comox Valley woman is now in the queue for her shot.

For Leela Harrop, getting the vaccine at all wasn’t even a sure thing, but a recent death in her family prompted her to register. She admits to having serious reservations about the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been linked to rare instances of blood clots, but when her brother, Raju Tiwari, died in India of COVID earlier this month, that was enough for her to sign up.

“That pushed me right over the edge,” she said.

RELATED STORY: PHAC receives first report of blood clot linked to AstraZeneca

She registered online at the government site, but when she got her message that she could book an appointment, she had issues being able to sign up for the Comox Valley. Living in Comox and working in Courtenay, she tried entering both communities but had no luck when she tried to click on a date. She even tried Campbell River but got the same message.

“It said this service is not available in your area,” she said.

She tried again the next day, April 14, and was able to pick a location but got nothing in terms of dates.

“I am computer literate, I use computers, so it wasn’t that I was messing up on the page,” she said. “There was just something weird.”

She posted to a local COVID Facebook page about her experience. A few others responded that they had had similar problems. Others mentioned it was easier calling in to set up the appointment than trying to do so online.

Harrop opted for the phone and was able to line up a date for her vaccine in early May.

“It was actually really easy to make an appointment,” she said.

The experience of her brother’s death on Sunday, April 11, was the decisive factor for vaccination. He had just turned 51 and had been in good health when he started experiencing symptoms, including a high fever and breathing difficulty.

“He was totally fine a couple days before,” she said. “It was devastating because he was healthy and alive.”

He had difficulty though finding a hospital that would take him in with his symptoms.

“They were driving around from hospital to hospital, and no hospital wanted to take him,” she said.

When he was finally admitted, he had to be put on a ventilator but succumbed to the virus after his oxygen levels dropped and he had a heart attack. Shortly after, Harrop decided to register. She also has a friend who is 35 and got COVID a year ago and is still unable to go back to work because of subsequent health issues.

“You just don’t know,” she said.

For vaccine information

The Record checked with Island Health to find out about any problems with registering for the vaccine. A spokesperson said the health authority is not aware of anyone reporting major issues with booking for a vaccine but recommends anyone having problems with the online system to call the provincial support number at 1-833-838-2323. The process is also outlined on the website at https://bit.ly/32zNka1

Island Health confirms either the Moderna or Pfizer two-dose vaccine is being given out at public clinics. There is also more information on the provincial health website about the vaccine program as well as updates on issues such as the AstraZeneca vaccine. This can be found at https://bit.ly/3uXmftn

As another option, the BC Pharmacy Association has information on the pharmacy-based distribution program. Michael Mui, communications specialist for the association, said at present there is no information yet on which pharmacies will be selected in the Comox Valley. As of April 16, the closest one is in Parksville. The criteria for selection include priority communities identified by regional health authorities as well as pharmacies that can handle larger quantities of vaccines and have sufficient infrastructure in place to mobilize vaccine distribution, such as staffing and physical layout.

The association’s website notes the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine is available at some pharmacies. As of April 13, the province lowered the age limit for it from 65 to anyone born in 1966 or earlier.



mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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Mike Chouinard

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