by Brandon Mayer
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
An area resident is speaking out against the current procedure for obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine exemption, saying that the rules make it virtually impossible. Robert C. Carmichael, who goes by “Bob,” was diagnosed with pericarditis as a youth. Pericarditis is a medical term, referring to inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart, and is also a rare side effect reported in some people after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. In some cases, pericarditis becomes very serious and can lead to death. The World Health Organization currently recommends that anyone with a history of reactions to vaccines should avoid getting the COVID-19 vaccine, and that includes Bob.
Bob reached out to the Times to express his concern that, even after he was informed by a doctor that he would be at high risk of complications from the vaccine, it appears next to impossible for him to receive a medical exemption from the shot. This is because of restrictive rules that limit the ability to provide COVID-19 vaccine exemption forms to “qualified specialists,” which requires a referral and can take many months.
Bob told the Times, “I can’t find anybody that will even consider filling out that exemption form.” He originally tried going to a walk-in clinic to get his exemption form filled out, but he did not even get to see the doctor – he was told outright that no doctor would fill it out. Bob spent five hours at the Kemptville District Hospital on October 25, and an hour at the Heart Institute in Ottawa on October 26, and he got the same disappointing answer at both places – despite his documented medical history, no doctor at either place would fill out an exemption form for him. Bob even tried going directly to Public Health offices in Brockville and Kemptville, but he was told that they do not provide exemption forms, and that he must talk to his General Practitioner. Despite not having a General Practitioner, Bob was able to contact one, but it was too late – he was told that the rule had changed, and now only Cardiologists can provide an exemption. Since Bob cannot get a referral without a General Practitioner, he is essentially stuck.
“There is no way around getting the vaccine, this is their main push,” Bob lamented. The last time he had a vaccine, he spent 30 hours unconscious in an emergency room, and he has been advised by a doctor not to get the shot, but the onus remains on him to prove that getting vaccinated is too much of a risk for him. “I’m not sticking my arm out!” Bob joked.
Bob has contacted the office of MPP Steve Clark, and was reassured that his case would be brought up to the Minister of Health. However, Bob feels he cannot even trust in this glimmer of hope, since an anticipated federal vaccine passport system may soon trump provincial authority. As of the time of writing, Bob had not heard back from Clark.
Bob is not the only area resident affected by the issue of vaccine complications. Matt Wubs, of Winchester, also spoke with the Times, after being badly affected by myopericarditis after his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, it only took about a month for him to receive an exemption from the second shot, likely because the doctors at the Heart Institute observed his condition first hand.
At 71 years old, all Bob wants is a level playing field that accommodates his illness. “In no way do I want to attend large gatherings, like sports games, or movies, or plays. I want to go out to a restaurant, or go to another province and enjoy the simple life, but the way it’s going, that might not be possible,” he told the Times.
As COVID-19 policies are ever-evolving, it remains to be seen whether people like Bob will be granted the same privileges as vaccinated people before the end of the pandemic.