As vaccine passports kick in, doctors see a rise in medical exemption requests – but few patients who actually qualify

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Doctors are seeing an uptick in requests for medical exemptions as the vaccine is mandated nationwide, but health officials warn that very few patients will qualify.

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Instead, some doctors see it as an opportunity to address patients’ concerns with vaccination and explain the benefits of getting their shots, says Dr. Katherine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association.

“At this point of the pandemic, we as all physicians are trying to take any opportunity we can to share information with patients and help them with any hesitation that may prevent them from getting vaccinated, and This is definitely an opportunity,” Dr. Smart says. “Many people with chronic health problems who may believe that a reason not to vaccinate are actually the same people we want to vaccinate because they are at much higher risk of a worse outcome from COVID.”


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Several provinces, including BC, Alberta, Quebec and Manitoba, have already introduced passports that require proof of vaccination to access non-essential services such as restaurants, movie theaters, sporting events and gyms. Ontario will begin its vaccine-certificate program on September 22.

There are very few conditions that meet the criteria for medical exemption. These include known allergic or immunologically confirmed anaphylaxis to any of the ingredients in the vaccine; Having had a significant allergic reaction to the first dose; or myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle and a rare side effect of the three vaccines. Some provinces have added other conditions to that list. For example, in Manitoba, the province’s Vaccine Implementation Task Force states that people who suffered Guillain-Barré syndrome as a result of the first dose, or are currently receiving treatment that prevents them from developing an immune response , qualify for the exemption.

Given this list of reasons, it is highly unlikely that many people inquiring about exemptions would qualify for one, Dr. Smart says. “The reality is that there are very few valid medical exemptions for vaccination so it’s quite simple.”

For example, according to data from the Public Health Agency of Canada, there are only 678 confirmed cases of myocarditis/pericarditis associated with COVID-19 vaccines in Canada from the start of the vaccination campaign to September 3 and its inclusion.

The Ontario Medical Association has already seen a small increase in requests for medical exemptions, says the organization’s president, Dr. Adam Kassam, but he says, “you’ll start to see that increase over time”.

About a dozen patients have asked Dr. Shane Barkley, a physician at Sun Peaks Community Health Center in Sun Peaks, BC, for a medical exemption for the vaccine. None of them had a condition that would qualify them for the exemption, he says. One patient sought exemption because he had only one kidney. Another told him that his lungs were bad.

“Then I would say, ‘All the more reason why you should get a COVID vaccine,'” Dr. Barclay says.

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The demand for a waiver prompted Dr. Barclay to write a letter to patients, stating that approving a waiver for a patient who had no valid reason would be fraudulent. “It’s a strong statement, but I wanted patients to realize that as a physician every time we sign our name, even on a sick note, it’s a medical, It’s a legal document,” says Dr. Barkley. “It’s not some benign request you’re asking your doctor for.”

Every day at least three people have asked Dr. Mukarram Zaidi for a vaccine waiver letter since Alberta’s “restriction waiver program” went into effect on Monday. The Calgary-based family doctor says none of them had a valid reason.

“Some said, ‘I know some people who have had side effects,'” Dr. Zaidi says. “Today I had a [person] And she said she felt tired after the first vaccine.” One person gave no reason, instead offering Dr. Zaidi $200 for a waiver letter, no questions asked.

“I said, ‘This discussion is over,'” Dr. Zaidi says. A couple asked for an exemption for themselves and their children, who are over the age of 12 and are therefore eligible for the vaccine. “I was very blunt with them. I told them, people are suffering and dying because of you,” says Dr. Zaidi. He told them that their own children had been vaccinated, and after much discussion, the family decided to vaccinate their children, says Dr. Zaidi.

Like Dr. Smart, Dr. Kasam believes this is an opportunity to try to persuade as many people as possible to get the vaccine.

“If you are seeking exemption the assumption is that you are probably not fully vaccinated. So perhaps this also provides an opportunity to have a conversation with that person about getting the vaccine,” Dr. Kasam it is said.

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In Ontario, to use non-essential services, people with a medical exemption must provide a written document, completed and supplied by a physician, stating that the person has been diagnosed with COVID-19 for medical reasons. are completely exempted from vaccination and, according to the Ministry of Health, the effective time-period for medical reasons. The custodian must also provide identification.

The province is working to develop a way for valid medical exemptions from COVID-19 vaccinations to be built into QR codes, read the verification applications so people don’t have to display their exemption forms and businesses need those forms. does not need to be verified.

In Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney says the province is exploring whether prior COVID-19 infections can waive proof of vaccination, given that people who have been infected have some exposure to the virus. Natural protection is available to some extent. But public-health guidance still recommends the vaccine if you have COVID-19, Dr. Susie Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at the University Health Network in Toronto.

“I don’t think we have a complete understanding of how to compare natural immunity to recovery from infection to vaccine-induced immunity,” says Dr. Hota. She says how long ago someone had COVID-19, what types were spreading at that time, how mild or severe the disease was, can all affect a person’s ability to protect against the virus, She says.

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