February 24, 2021
Dear Patients of Spectrum,
Your Spectrum team would once again like to thank everyone for adhering to our COVID-safety protocols. Your dedication to mask wearing, arriving close to your appointment time, and sticking to telephone appointments when sick has allowed us to safely keep our doors open throughout the pandemic. Spectrum continues to be very busy and we thank everyone for their patience when trying to get through on our phone lines. As a reminder, our Patient Portal allows you to book telephone appointments online and we encourage everyone to take advantage of this feature. For those of you who do occasional blood tests (for diabetes or HIV treatment or prevention for example) we feel that it’s safe and appropriate to return to your usual schedule. Similarly, we are now recommending that individuals requiring cervical cancer screening book an appointment for a pap test. Call the clinic to book your pap test. We are still not booking regular physical examinations but will notify you by email when we are. In order to keep everyone safe and healthy, please do not come to Spectrum if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, if you’ve travelled outside of Canada within the last 14 days, or if you’ve had a recent exposure to someone who is COVID-positive or waiting for a result.
In general, our new procedure for providing medication refills to St. Paul’s Hospital for HIV treatment and prevention has been running smoothly. (Click HERE for instructions how to refill your HIV/PrEP medication.) We are happy to provide repeat antiretroviral prescriptions by telephone after you have completed your blood tests, but don’t forget to book an appointment with your doctor at least once a year for a health maintenance review.
COVID-19 vaccine update
There are 2 vaccines that are currently approved for use in Canada, one made by Pfizer/BioNTech and the other by Moderna. These two products are called mRNA vaccines and they basically train your immune system to recognize the spike protein on the COVID-19 virus and destroy it. While the process of developing and testing these vaccines was rapid, rigorous standards were in place when Health Canada approved them. As of today, over 200 million doses of vaccine have been administered around the world and both vaccines continue to have an outstanding safety record. Already we’ve seen some encouraging data emerging about the vaccine’s ability to decrease severe COVID-19 cases as well as hospitalizations and so we highly recommend that everyone receive the vaccine when it’s available. The best place to learn about vaccine availability in British Columbia is the BCCDC website. At the moment, only the highest priority groups are being offered vaccine. These include residents of long-term care facilities and health care workers in very high-risk locations.
Perhaps you have a medical condition or living situation that puts you at higher-than-average risk of complications due to COVID-19. The BCCDC website clearly outlines which medical conditions are targeted for expedited vaccination and people with these issues are expected to be invited for a vaccine between April and June. We’ve included a summary of those conditions below (Appendix A). For those who don’t fall into a high-risk category, you will be invited to register to receive a vaccine based on your age. We still haven’t been notified about how this registration system will work but will let you know when we’ve been given further details. It’s very unlikely that we will receive a supply of vaccine here at Spectrum. From the information we have, vaccination will almost certainly take place at centralized locations such as school gymnasia or conference centres. For those individuals who can’t physically get to a vaccination centre, there will likely be a program for home delivery. We will provide further information on vaccine administration and timing when it becomes available. Of course, we are just as eager as you are to receive the vaccine and will be following vaccine supply and delivery very closely. You can expect an email from us in the near future with vaccine booking details. Until then stay fit, healthy, and strong.
Your Spectrum Team
Appendix A: People with underlying health conditions that are clinically extremely vulnerable include:
- Solid organ transplant recipients
- People with specific cancers:
- People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
- People with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
- People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
- People having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
- People having other targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
- People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last six months or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
- People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- People with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), homozygous sickle cell disease)
- People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection (biologic modifiers, high dose steroids, AZT, cyclophosphamide)
- People who had their spleen removed
- Adults with very significant developmental disabilities that increase risk
- Adults on dialysis or with chronic kidney disease (stage 5)
- Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired
- Significant neuromuscular conditions requiring respiratory support