Question Period: COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout – Sen. Munson

By: The Hon. Jim Munson

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Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, my question is for Senator Gold. I wasn’t going to ask a question today, but I went to bed with an image in my head of thousands of group homes with young and older people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I do know that in some of these homes they got the vaccine early because they are in a setting of priority. But Senator Gold, I couldn’t help but think of, for example, the tens of thousands of Special Olympic athletes who live at home, who are independent, and who are vulnerable, as statistics have shown, to COVID-19. And I just can’t let this issue go. Yesterday, you talked about making inquiries.

I’m wondering if you or your staff or somebody has made those inquiries to give us some statistical evidence that these people who live at home — young adults who are vulnerable — are getting the vaccine or are in the second tranche of getting the vaccine. In the last three or four weeks we’ve heard that in long-term care homes that the numbers are going down. That’s a good thing. I’m not so sure that those who are living outside of these homes, or even some people in these group homes who have not been vaccinated, have had the same benefit. So on your inquiries, could you help us out a bit more today?

Senator Gold: Thank you for your question and thank you for not giving up on this issue. It’s an important issue. I did make inquiries yesterday. I have not gotten a response back. Though I have promised in this chamber and I am doing my best to get timely answers, it won’t be quite as quick a turnaround. As I said yesterday, and I say it with no pleasure, the decision as to how to prioritize — what for the moment still remains a limited resource — is made by each province. The Province of Quebec, where I’m from, has prioritized residents in long-term care homes over others, including my 92-year-old mother, who doesn’t yet know when she will get her vaccine. Ontario has made different priorities, as other provinces have.

I will continue to press for answers to your questions, honourable colleague, and I will report back as soon as I have an answer. Thank you again.

Senator Munson: Senator Gold, I know you’re an empathetic person. I do. I really understand that and I get that. But just to help you along in terms of people giving you some advice, could I suggest there is a National Advisory Committee on Immunization. That’s a scientific, external body. They have made recommendations to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Those recommendations were made long before a vaccine was even found. In their recommendations — I’ve been going through the whole list here, and I see a lot of words and I do see care homes and the rest of it. Nowhere do I see — and maybe I’ll be corrected if somebody from that organization is listening — the terms, “those with intellectual disabilities,” “developmentally delayed disabilities,” or “those with physical disabilities” who are vulnerable to this.

So, in your inquiries, may I humbly suggest that this is a body that would make these recommendations to the federal government, so there is a role with the provinces. I think the more we know the numbers, the better we’ll feel and the safer we’ll all be. Thank you.

Senator Gold: I’ll certainly undertake to do that. Thank you.

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