'Quit being jerks': N.S. lung transplant patient urges health officials to green light second booster
A celebrated lung transplant patient is urging Nova Scotia health officials to green light a fourth COVID-19 shot for him soon -- or he'll fly to Toronto and get it there.
In fact, that's how John Dennis says he got his third shot, and that the province paid for it, though health officials dispute his claim.
The 77-year-old received a single lung in a transplant operation in Toronto on March 12, 2021.
Dennis describes his surgery and recovery as "fantastic."
Living independently at Northwood, a long-term care home in Halifax, he says he has heard as many as half-a-dozen residents have been infected with COVID-19 recently -- a terrifying prospect for Dennis, who's considered the oldest living lung transplant patient in Nova Scotia.
His wife, Penny, died of COVID-19 complications during the first wave in 2020.
Dennis has spoken to CTV News before about vaccination mandates for workers in long-term care facilities.
Anxious to avoid the virus, Dennis got his first two shots in Nova Scotia as soon as he was eligible, but he was worried it was taking too long to get his booster.
The transplant team in Toronto agreed, so he flew there in September for a hospital appointment he says took all of 15 minutes.
"I had to go up in the morning, get the shot, get back to the airport, and fly home all in the same day," he says.
Because it was a medical expense, Dennis submitted a claim to the province and his bank account shows a $1,000 payment on Sept. 22, 2021.
Now, four-and-a-half months later, he's anxious to get shot number four, but says that's proving to be a problem.
"I'm immune-suppressed, and my antibody count is down, and I'm concerned," he says.
"I cannot afford to get sick and get COVID. It could kill me."
Earlier this month, Ontario announced it would offer fourth doses to immunocompromised individuals, but other provinces haven't followed suit.
"We cannot speak to specific circumstances, but Nova Scotia follows the advice and recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI)," says an emailed statement from Marla MacInnis, spokesperson for the Department of Health and Wellness.
"Once NACI provided their recommendations on third doses, we moved quickly to offer them to eligible Nova Scotians, with priority given to those in long-term care facilities."
“NACI has not recommended a fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and so fourth doses are not being offered in Nova Scotia at this time," reads the statement, which also adds that the province doesn’t pay for people to leave Nova Scotia for a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Lung Association of Nova Scotia says it's been hearing from other patients with similar concerns.
"Given that this is a respiratory illness and these people are already dealing with compromised lung health, we can definitely understand why people are concerned," says Michelle Donaldson, communications and special projects manager for the association.
CTV News tried to verify the number of residents with COVID-19 at Northwood Towers Monday, but the information wasn't available.
"As independent tenants, they are not obliged to share their COVID-19 status with us," said communications and marketing specialist Murray Stenton via email.
"If tenants have shared that information, we have provided them with the Public Health guidelines for isolation and testing."
Dennis says he won't hesitate to go back to Toronto to get the shot that's available at nearly every pharmacy in Nova Scotia-- and he'll apply for reimbursement.
"That's part of my healthcare treatment, and therefore it is covered, and I'd fight them in court for it if I had to,” he says.
"Quit being jerks. Give me my shot and get it over with and let us live our lives in peace."
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