24 March 2021
Ministre Christian Dubé
Ministère de la Santé et des Services Sociaux
Édifice Catherine-De Longpré
1075, chemin Sainte-Foy
Québec (Quebec) G1S 2M1
Dear Minister Dubé,
We are writing to you today with regards to your prioritization scheme for COVID-19 immunization. Notably, your province has yet to explicitly prioritize patients with cancer or respiratory disease in your COVID-19 vaccination plans. We recognize that this may be because the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has not made clear recommendations on when and how to vaccinate populations with underlying conditions.
However, nearly every other province in Canada has acknowledged the importance of prioritizing those with underlying conditions that make patients more susceptible to severe illness and death, and have moved forward with including these high risk populations in their prioritization schemes. As organizations representing Canadian cancer patients and those with respiratory diseases, we urge your government to follow in the other provinces footsteps and update your rollout plans to specifically prioritize cancer patients and those with chronic respiratory diseases.
While those with underlying conditions may not respond as well to the vaccines, they may also be more likely to have a severe reaction to COVID-19. As such, even a lesser degree of protection is critically important for people with high risk conditions. Cancer patients and those with chronic respiratory diseases are particularly vulnerable to severe complications from COVID-19, and are at an elevated risk of mortality. Treatments for cancer such as chemotherapies and immunotherapies can weaken immune systems and make it harder for individuals to fight the COVID-19 infection. In addition, there is significant evidence that demonstrates that those with respiratory illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are at a much higher risk of developing severe illness.
It is also important to note that the mental health burden the pandemic is placing on patient populations is immense. Patients and caregivers are living in a state of constant anxiety with fears of themselves, or their loved ones, contracting COVID-19. An increased prevalence of symptoms such as low mood, anxiety and insomnia has been reported among patient populations with many patients reporting that they have avoided seeking in-person care due to fears of contracting COVID-19. Providing these communities with the opportunity to receive the vaccines would help reduce some of the mental health burden and allow patients to focus on their treatments and care.
In keeping with the public health goal of minimizing serious illness and overall deaths as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we suggest that cancer patients and those with chronic respiratory diseases be prioritized before the general population.
We appreciate your attention on this important matter.
Executive Vice President
Lung Health Foundation
President & CEO
Canadian Cancer Survivors Network