OTTAWA, ON, March 15, 2021 /CNW/ – It is critical that provinces and territories prioritize cancer patients and their caregivers during the second phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization states that “the goal of Canada‘s pandemic response is to minimize serious illness and death while minimizing societal disruption because of the COVID-19 pandemic.” 225,800 Canadians are diagnosed with cancer every year, but this commonly shared statistic does not represent the many more Canadians who were diagnosed in previous years and are still undergoing treatment today.
Unfortunately, the pandemic response has inadvertently negatively impacted the lives of cancer patients and survivors. This applies to all cancer patients, and particularly to those with lung cancer, who are uniquely vulnerable to complications if they contract COVID-19 due to their diminished lung function and immunocompromised systems.
The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network commissioned two Leger surveys on COVID-19 disruption of cancer care in Canada, the most recent in December 2020. One of the most startling results identified cancer patient and caregiver hesitancy to access care, with 35 per cent of patients and caregivers choosing to cancel, postpone or avoid a healthcare service during the pandemic. This included:
- Canceling or postponing in-person appointments with their doctor.
- Avoiding booking an appointment with their doctor even when they need one.
- Avoiding going to the ER for symptoms related to cancer.
- Choosing to cancel or postpone a lab test or diagnostic procedure for cancer.
- Canceling visiting a hospital for cancer care.
Clearly, the ability of cancer patients to access healthcare and cancer care remains in doubt, and may lead to worse outcomes, including later diagnoses and postponed or missed appointments, tests, or treatments. The anxiety and fear that cancer patients and caregivers are experiencing about contracting COVID-19 can be assuaged by the prioritization of COVID-19 vaccinations of cancer patients and their caregivers so that they feel safe when they go to cancer care appointments.
The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network therefore calls on the National Advisory Committee on Immunization as well as the provinces and territories to explicitly include cancer patients and caregivers in Phase 2 immunization plans.