Third-dose Thanksgiving: immunocompromised guests still wary of gatherings

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Kristian Koopman’s Thanksgiving plans don’t include an elaborate stuffed turkey dinner or her grandchildren’s excited chatter around the dining table.

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Like last year, Koopman’s Thanksgiving will be a subdued affair, with her husband sharing a turkey sandwich and a video call from the kids.

Copman, a 73-year-old blood cancer patient in Chilliwack, B.C., and her husband who suffers from melanoma, both received booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine two weeks ago. But his debilitating health conditions still make him wary of going on vacation.


“For blood cancer patients, we don’t generate[much]protection after two doses, and now that I have the third dose, I may have 90 percent protection, but it’s possible that I have six percent.” Ho,” said Coupman, who was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia eight years ago.

“If I get COVID, it will take a week and I will die. Why would I risk it? “

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RELATED: Ontario’s top doctors issue guidelines for Thanksgiving, Halloween

Coopman is one of several immunocompromised Canadians deciding to abandon or revise their traditional Thanksgiving plans this weekend. Despite high vaccination rates across the country, the COVID-19 virus continues to spread, causing concern among the most vulnerable.

Dr. Deepali Kumar, transplant infectious disease physician at the University Health Network, said reluctance to host or participate in holiday events is common among his immunocompromised patients.

Kumar co-authored a study earlier this year on booster doses in organ transplant recipients, which found that while a third jab offers some patients greater protection against COVID-19, it may not work for all of them. It does – and most will never know how shielded they are.

“I hear this frustration every day, and all I can say is that we (researchers) are working on different ways to ensure that anyone who has compromised immunity is protected,” he said. “It is possible that we may never have the same level of protection of immunity that we do in the general population.

“The best way to make sure they’re protected is to get everyone vaccinated (in the community) to reduce the transmission of COVID as much as we can.”

While Kumar noted that it can be disheartening for immunocompromised individuals as others move on to more normal lives, he said it is possible to have a safe Thanksgiving celebration with certain conditions.

She suggested that groups be kept small and restricted to fully vaccinated guests only. While children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination, he said they can participate safely if parents remain vigilant about any COVID-19 cases in their schools , leading to this event.

Kumar said the level of COVID-19 within the local community also matters. Immunized people living in areas with few daily cases may take more liberties than provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan, which have been caught in fourth waves.

Alberta’s chief medical officer, Dr. Dina Hinshaw, warned this week that indoor gatherings, including Thanksgiving dinner for unvaccinated individuals, are “still not allowed”. She also urged vaccinated families to celebrate outside instead.

Meanwhile, New Brunswick told its residents to stick to single-home gatherings, part of new restrictive measures aimed at stemming the recent rise in cases in that province.

Ontario’s top doctor, Kieran Moore, said this week that while people attending a fully vaccinated Thanksgiving dinner can comfortably remove their masks indoors, they still advised groups of unvaccinated guests to wear face coverings. Recommended to keep out with.

He suggested wearing masks at gatherings that involved people “vulnerable to this virus”, such as older guests and people with chronic medical conditions.

Tina Proulx, a double-lung transplant recipient in Ottawa, is taking a “baby step” this Thanksgiving, leaving for dinner at her sister’s house with six of her relatives.

The holiday feast marks the first time before the pandemic that Proulx would gather indoors with more than two family members at once, and the first time relatives who have been fully vaccinated would be allowed to visit before their visit. Has not been asked to quarantine for 14 days. As an extra precaution.

Proulx and her husband will eat at a comfortable distance and a separate table, but close enough to feel part of the celebration, she said. Those present will be masked if they do not eat, and Proulx’s brother, whose child has not been vaccinated, will not be at the gathering.

The 38-year-old knows that it seems like a lot of precautions for a small family, especially since the risk of catching the virus from a fully vaccinated person is low. But his family understands the extra caution.

“He’s seen everything I’ve been through,” said Prolux, who was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension a decade ago and received a new set of lungs in 2015.

“They certainly don’t want to put me at risk.”

Proulx received her third COVID-19 vaccine dose in August, saying it gave her a little more confidence to meet family at Thanksgiving. But like Koopman, she doesn’t know how safe she is, and it becomes harder to calculate the risk in everyday activities.

“I don’t know if (three doses) is enough and it’s really disappointing,” Proulx said. “When it comes to making the decision to go to a store, to have coffee with a friend, to have a family dinner, these are things I would love to do.

“But I’m still very hesitant.”

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