Calgary

Calgary parents criticize potential delays in vaccinations

Alberta Health Services is facing criticism in Calgary from a mother who struggled to get her daughter vaccinated on schedule.

Mother told next available appointment was four months away

Baby Hazel faced heading to daycare without her one-year vaccinations due to difficulties in getting a timely appointment. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

A Calgary mother is frustrated with the immunization system, after she was told her infant daughter could face substantial delays for her one-year vaccines.

To get an earlier appointment, she would have to call every single clinic in the Calgary area, every day, in the hopes of a sudden opening due to cancellation.

"We had to rebook her one-year vaccination, so when I called the clinic that we go to they told me that the next available appointment would be in December," explained Amanda Jacques, mother of infant Hazel.

Amanda Jacques and her daughter Hazel were told it could be months before the infant could get her one-year vaccinations at a public health clinic in Calgary. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

The vaccinations scheduled for Hazel included the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine — something Jacques considered of critical importance as her daughter will be starting daycare soon. Hazel's daycare provider had been promised vaccinations would be up to date.

"If we had the delay for her vaccination, that'd be four months of her being in daycare where she could potentially be exposed to something or exposing other kids to something," said Jacques.

If Alberta Health Services is telling me it's important to get my child vaccinated at two months, then I feel they should be able to get her vaccinated at two months.- Catherine Lebel, Calgary parent

After spending days calling every clinic in Calgary and surrounding communities, Jacques was initially able to get a timely appointment in Cochrane — a fair distance from her Parkdale home in northwest Calgary.

Thankfully, Jacques was able to get a last-minute appointment for Hazel to get her vaccinations after days of calling multiple clinics on her own to snap up a cancelled slot.

May not be a new problem

Other Calgary parents say delays like this are not a new issue.

Catherine Lebel faced the same sort of delays with her eldest child more than five years ago when trying to get vaccines for her as an infant.

"It was surprising to me that they couldn't get her in on their own mandated schedule," said Lebel in reference to those earlier delays.

Catherine Lebel faced similar difficulties in getting timely vaccination appointments for some of her three children over the past six years. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

"If Alberta Health Services is telling me it's important to get my child vaccinated at two months, then I feel they should be able to get her vaccinated at two months."

Lebel had to book booster shots for one of her other children, a four-year-old son, several months in advance to make sure they were done on time.

"For me, personally, it's just kind of annoying. It's a hassle," said Lebel.

She is concerned these difficulties could stop parents less dedicated to vaccination from going through with what is considered an important public health intervention.

"Potentially fewer people are getting vaccinated because they either can't get to an appointment, they can't wait four months for an appointment or they're just unsure about it and so they don't bother calling around all the different clinics," said Lebel.

Edmonton has centralized booking

Alberta Health Services does not provide a central booking system for vaccination appointments in the Calgary region. But in Edmonton, appointments are handled centrally by the 780-401-BOOK telephone hotline.

The provincial health authority says it does its best to accommodate parents.

Dr. Judy MacDonald is a medical officer of health with Alberta Health Services. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

"It is a dynamic situation, demand and matching that demand with resources. Clinic appointments, for instance. Sometimes there can be long wait times, and some times of the year are busier," said Dr. Judy MacDonald, medical officer of health for the Calgary region.

I think it'd be great if the booking became a little more patient-centred.- Amanda Jacques, Calgary parent

After inquiries from CBC News, AHS said it would look into a centralized booking system for Calgary to match Edmonton's system.

"It's great that people are bringing their kids in for immunization. We need to make it as easy for them to do as possible," said MacDonald.

That move would be welcomed by Amanda Jacques, who will be going back to work soon as her maternity leave wraps up and she wouldn't have time to call every clinic, every day, if she was working full time.

""I think it'd be great if the booking became a little bit more patient-centred," said Jacques.

About the Author

Anis Heydari

Producer

Anis Robert Heydari has worked in jobs ranging from cleaning up oil spills to fixing phone lines, but somehow ended up a jack-of-all-trades at the CBC. He's now working at CBC Radio's "The Cost of Living" covering business and economics. Reach him at anis@cbc.ca.