Calgary

Calgary mom fears 2-month vaccination wait will put her baby at risk

Courtney Gee missed her four-month-old daughter's immunization appointment this week because her baby has the flu, but when she called to reschedule she was shocked to be told the next available appointment is in May.

'It feels like it's not a priority for the province that these kids are vaccinated on time,' she says

A Calgary mom is frustrated she has to wait months for her daughter's vaccine, putting her behind her immunization schedule. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Courtney Gee missed her four-month-old daughter's immunization appointment this week because her baby has the flu, but when she called to reschedule she was shocked to be told the next available appointment is in May.

Courtney Gee worries she won't be able to get her daughter vaccinated on schedule. (Alleisha Formenti, White Space Photography Boutique)

Alberta Health Services has been urging parents to ensure children are up to date on their vaccinations, with measles outbreaks plaguing both Vancouver and Washington state, so Gee was frantic to get her daughter in as she's due for three boosters and one new vaccine.

She called around to other public health clinics, but was told she's only allowed to have her name on one wait list in the city. 

"I was pretty upset. It's been a battle," said Courtney Gee. "It feels like it's not a priority for the province that these kids are vaccinated on time. So then it becomes a question for the parents, is this a priority for me?"

She said she spoke to a group of friends who are also mothers, and they've been encountering the same issue, putting their children behind on their vaccination schedule as well.

Gee said her sister ended up driving more than an hour to Okotoks from her home in north Calgary to vaccinate her daughter on time.

"Every time you delay spacing them more, you're further and further behind," she said.

Gee fears with anti-vaccine sentiment gaining in popularity her children are more at risk of getting sick.

The government aims for vaccination rates in the 95-98 per cent range, but some vaccine immunization rates for children in Calgary were as low as 68 per cent in 2017 and only a handful were in the 95 per cent range.

This isn't a new problem.

Last summer, CBC News spoke to other Calgary parents who raised concerns their children's vaccines would be months behind. And in 2014, AHS told CBC News wait times were creeping up as high as 74 days for routine immunization appointments.

At the time, AHS said it was looking at centralizing its booking system to try to minimize wait lists, a system Edmonton already has in place.

In Edmonton, appointments are handled centrally by the 780-401-BOOK telephone hotline.

[It] is so frustrating to read all of these articles and all of these quotes about our health authorities saying it's really important that people get vaccinated.- Courtney Gee, Calgary mother

AHS said it continues to look at implementing a similar system.

"Our goal is always to make the immunization process as easy and convenient as possible," AHS said in an emailed statement, adding that waits in Calgary can be more than three weeks.

AHS also said children old enough, and eligible, can be immunized at school. 

But that doesn't help Gee or her daughter.

"We're finding it very hard," she said.

"[It] is so frustrating to read all of these articles and all of these quotes about our health authorities saying it's really important that people get vaccinated. This should be a warning call for people," Gee said.

With files from Colleen Underwood

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