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Chronically ill patients still facing confusion over COVID-19 vaccine eligibility in Quebec

Many chronically ill patients across Quebec are still facing obstacles when it comes to getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Bridget Delaportas, 24, has been living with lupus and has been on immunosuppressants for two years.

When she found out last week that Quebec would begin vaccinating chronically ill patients, she did her due diligence.

“I immediately called my doctor, I spoke to the pharmacist and I called the hotline and all of them said I was eligible.”

Delaportas says both her doctor and the pharmacy told her to book her vaccine through Clic Santé, the government’s online vaccination portal.

She was able to get an appointment on Saturday at the McGill University Health Centre. But when she arrived, despite having all the necessary paperwork proving she was sick, she was turned away.

“They told me I wasn’t chronically ill enough or an essential worker enough to get it,” she said.

“And the way they made it sound, I wasn’t the only one.”

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Delaportas says they told her they were sorry and that they had to turn away many people that day because “they weren’t sick enough.”

But why the confusion for so many people? Quebec’s health website provides a list of the chronic diseases that are considered high risk for COVID-19 complications, but it does not make it very clear that patients with those illnesses may not necessarily qualify for the vaccine at this time.

In a statement to Global News, the Health Ministry says it’s aware there is a lot of confusion and referred to a video posted to YouTube on Friday.

The video aims to answer frequently asked questions but it’s only in French — with no immediate plans for it to be made in English, according to a Health Ministry spokesperson.

In the meantime, Quebec’s top doctor says he is aware there is miscommunication between patients, doctors and the pharmacies.

Click to play video: Confusion exist over COVID-19 vaccine priority and people with disabilities in Quebec

“The pharmacists have been calling their patients which are at higher risk before the others,” said Dr. Horacio Arruda.

“There is not enough doses for all those chronic diseases. They must come later but that’s an issue we are aware of and we’re going to try to find out the best way to reach that population.”

But patients’ rights activist Paul Brunet says it’s bureaucracy that is getting in the way.

“The condition is what counts the most, and the treating doctor should have awarded the vaccine notwithstanding the directive,” he said.

For now, the Health Ministry says anyone eligible because of their chronic illness will receive a call from their doctor, while everyone else will have to be patient and wait until the province receives more vaccines.

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