Loren Barr, a stem cell transplant patient in the Comox Valley, is trying to raise awareness what he calls a “second dose situation.” Scott Stanfield photo

Loren Barr, a stem cell transplant patient in the Comox Valley, is trying to raise awareness what he calls a “second dose situation.” Scott Stanfield photo

Immunocompromised B.C. man slams province over second dose vaccine delays

Stem cell transplant patient says delays are putting vulnerable people at risk

Loren Barr, a stem cell transplant patient in the Comox Valley, is trying to raise awareness what he calls a “second dose situation.”

The 71-year-old is challenging government on its roll-out of the COVID vaccine, specifically on the delay of the second shot. Delaying it, he said, could be fatal for immunocompromised people such as himself.

“They have extended it (second dose) for the Pfizer,” Barr said. “The CDC (Centre for Disease Control) and the manufacturer says 21 days. Our federal government has said four months is just fine. They have absolutely no evidence to support that, especially if you’re immune-compromised, which transplant patients are.

“It is the absolute worst thing you could do, but they did not take that into account whatsoever.

The Health Ministry disagrees. It says B.C.’s approach to the extended dose interval to a maximum of four months is based on a recommendation by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, based on “evidence, efficacy, modeling, ethical principles, and expert opinions,” a statement says.

“As B.C.’s immunization rollout accelerates and more vaccine becomes available, the interval between the two doses may decrease.”

At this time, there are no medical exemptions to provide second doses ahead of the scheduled interval.

“The first year is critical for transplant patients,” Barr said. “We go through chemo, which kills everything in our system. We have no anti-bodies. It also wipes out all of your lifelong vaccinations.”

Barr suffers from a rare disease called myelodisplastic syndrome, which shuts down the bone marrow, and doesn’t produce red and white blood cells. He was diagnosed in 2013, and was given three-and-a-half years to live.

“For whatever reason, I kept kicking and went way past my expiry date.”

He was told a stem cell transplant was the only possible cure, though at first he wasn’t accepted to the program due to his age. Later, however, he said the program placed more importance on physical condition — and he received the transplant Nov. 8. He had been given a 30 per cent chance of surviving the operation.

“Thirty per cent was better than nothing, which is what my odds were without the transplant,” said Barr, who spent four months at Vancouver General Hospital.

Shortly thereafter, the coronavirus pandemic struck. Despite taking cyclosporine, which he was told reduces the efficacy of the vaccine, Barr received a Pfizer vaccine April 23.

He has emailed his concerns to Premier John Horgan, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard — along with every member of the legislature.

So far, he has only heard back from Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, who asked for more information.

Barr’s ordeal has taken a toll on his life. It cost him his marriage and his business. But he hopes something good can come out of the ordeal, which has inspired him to fight for what he believes in.

“Don’t put total faith in the experts and what they tell you. Don’t give up hope. You have to ask the medical experts lots of questions, and stay on top of everything.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

RELATED: Research raises questions over delayed second vaccine doses for seniors

RELATED: Received 1st dose of COVID vaccine before April 6? It’s time to register for 2nd in B.C.

Just Posted

Comox Valley medical clinics are all open, including the availability to book face-to-face care (i.e. for a physical examination) as per your clinic’s protocol (most clinics operate a “virtual care first” policy). ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
Northern Health launches virtual primary care clinic

Northerners without a family physician or nurse practitioner will now have access to primary care

Demonstrators lined Hwy 16 May 5 to mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Deb Meissner photo)
VIDEO: Smithers gathering marks Red Dress Day honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

Approximately 70 people lined Hwy 16, drumming, singing and holding up placards

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

The road to Telegraph Creek (Hwy 51) was closed April 15 due to a washout. On May 4, the road was opened to light-duty passenger vehicles during specific times. (BC Transportation and Infrastructure/Facebook)
Telegraph Creek Road opens for light-duty vehicles

Road has been closed since April 15 due to a washout

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Surrey RCMP is releasing sketches of a suspect in an “indecent act” at the Coyote Creek Elementary playground on April 30, 2021. Police said the suspect was clean-shaven “during some interactions” and on “other occasions had stubble outlining a goatee and mustache.” (Images: Surrey RCMP handout)
Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart addresses supporters in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says there’s no time to redo details of drug decriminalization plan

Kennedy Stewart says a federal election could see the small window of opportunity close on the city’s bid for an exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs

Premier Mike Horgan received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Facebook/John Horgan)
More than 50% of people eligible in B.C. have received 1st vaccine dose

‘We’ve made extraordinary progress together over the past few weeks,’ says Premier Horgan

Brad MacKenzie, advocacy chair for the ALS Society of B.C., says having research projects in the province allows people here to have access to cutting-edge treatments now being developed. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds research chair for Lou Gehrig’s disease at UBC

Pandemic has cut off patient access to international projects

Most Read