The mandates on masks, social gatherings, and proof of vaccinations acted as a buffer zone for immunocompromised throughout the pandemic. According to a report done by the CBC, persons with compromised immune systems face some anxious times ahead. Joel Bhikoo has multiple sclerosis, needs an IV infusion of medication every six months, and for the most part, has been isolating himself since the COVID-19 pandemic hit nearly two years ago. The report goes on, "with his province's announcement that it would be lifting some COVID-19 restrictions, he said he feels that despite acting responsibly, he's now treated as a "second-class citizen."
"I enjoyed going out for lunch with my brother once a week. And we can't even do that because I don't know if the person at the next table is carrying COVID," he said. "And now people that aren't immunized are being able to do things, and [it's] putting me into jail again."
Bhikoo is just one of the thousands of Canadians whose medical condition has put them more at risk for developing complications in case of infection from COVID-19. Some of them are now facing a more anxious future as many provinces announce the lifting of measures in an attempt to get things back to normal or learn to live with COVID-19.
According to Statistics Canada data, in 2020, around 14 percent of Canadians aged 15 years or older have a compromised immune system that increases their risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19. Around 38 percent of Canadian adults living in private households reported having one or more underlying health conditions that could put them at elevated risk of complications following COVID-19 infection, StatsCan found.
Families feel the effects.
Relaxing restrictions are also triggering concern for some whose family members are immunocompromised. The CBC reports Saskatoon parent Kath Stevenson has a seven-year-old son who is immunocompromised because he has primary B-cell deficiency.
"I feel anxious. I feel like this society is incredibly ableist and is just forgetting about a lot of people."
Stevenson said she understands the lifting of some restrictions, but what distresses her the most will be the end of requiring people to mask in indoor public spaces, she said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says that when layered with other recommended public health measures, a well-constructed, well-fitting, and adequately worn mask can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Respirators (such as N-95 and KN-95 masks) are considered the highest level of mask protection.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
According to the Public Health Service of Canada and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, at-risk persons should consider the following:
- staying home from work when sick
- practicing hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
- cleaning and disinfecting workstations and other surfaces and objects
- wearing a non-medical mask or personal protective equipment as necessary
- maintaining physical distancing from co-workers and customers, when possible
- participating in a workplace screening initiative
- wearing a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission
- choosing to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission, mainly if individuals are at risk or have someone in their household who is at increased risk of severe disease or not fully vaccinated
For more information on protection procedures, guidelines, and government-provided tools, visit the following links: