One group left behind in all of the proof of vaccination discussion in Saskatchewan appears to be the people who can’t be vaccinated.
Medical exemptions are something widely discussed, but the number of people to whom it would actually apply is very small. Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical health officer, says less than one per cent of the population would actually qualify.
Global News spoke with a woman who is part of that one per cent.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons in Saskatchewan has said that there should be only two reasons doctors write a vaccine exemption: one is a severe allergy or anaphylactic reaction, and the other is a rare heart condition.
Global News confirmed through health records that the woman we interviewed has a medical exemption from the vaccine.
Her identity is being protected because she fears public backlash from sharing her unvaccinated status. For the purpose of this story, she will be referred to as Sarah.
Sarah says she tried to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but her body just wouldn’t allow her to.
“Within five minutes, my tongue swelled and I couldn’t talk or produce words,” Sarah recalled.
She says she got the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on May. 1.
“Where I went to get the vaccine, they hit me with an EpiPen and then I ended up in the emergency room and I had additional doses of epinephrine in there,” she added.
Due to the anaphylactic reaction Sarah experienced, she’s been advised not to get her second dose by medical professionals, she says. Sarah adds she had to be treated with three doses of epinephrine that day.
She describes it as a scary experience, and she hasn’t shared her story online because she doesn’t won’t to deter those eligible from getting vaccinated.
“I never shared what happened on platforms, because I didn’t want my experience for someone else to not stick it to COVID because it happened to me. Because it is a rare thing to happen,” she explained.
The Saskatchewan Human Rights commission says individuals who choose not be vaccinated due to personal preference do not have the right to accommodation under the human rights code.
The commission acknowledges there are some individuals who cannot accept the vaccine due to a reason protected by the code.
On its website, the commission states, “Employers and service providers have a duty to reasonably accommodate them, to the point of undue hardship.”
Testing requirements for COVID do meet the duty to accommodate.
On Tuesday, the provincial government announced all asymptomatic tests will be paid for out of pocket. Starting Friday, one will be required to go to various public spaces like gyms, event venues and restaurants, meaning individuals like Sarah will have to pay to move freely around the community.
“To have to pay $95 or $100 for a PCR test every ‘x’ number of days isn’t reasonable, and it’s not your choice,” Sarah said.
She says the government has not provided clear directives for people like her, who wanted to get vaccinated but couldn’t, adding if her workplace demands her to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, she’ll be facing upwards of $360 in testing charges a month.
In an email to Global News, the health ministry says other exemptions could be determined in consultation with medical practitioners. The ministry adds:
“At this time, the government of Saskatchewan is still working with a variety of stakeholders to determine the final guidance regarding a proof-of-vaccination or negative test requirement. We will have more details closer to Oct 1.”
That timeline is fast approaching and Sarah hopes the ministry will come out with directives businesses and employers can follow for individuals like herself, who cannot get vaccinated due to health risks.