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

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

18-year-old skier Logan Leach follows his guide, Julien Petit, down an alpine track. The Lumby athlete who is visually impaired has been named to Alpine Canada’s Ski Team ahead of the 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing. (Contributed)
Lumby’s Logan Leach named to national ski team

The 18-year-old visually impaired athlete officially joins Canada’s Para-Alpine roster ahead of Beijing 2022

Sovereign Lake Nordic Club is the first ski area in Canada to signify its commitment to ending working poverty, by paying all its staff and contracted workers a living wage. (Contributed)
Vernon ski area first in Canada to pay living wage

Sovereign Lake Nordic Club invests in staff and contracted workers

Fair-goers take a ride at the 120th annual Armstrong Interior Provincial Exhibition and Stampede Aug. 28-Sept. 1, 2019. (Katherine Peters - Morning Star)
Armstrong’s IPE not eligible for COVID-19 grant designed for major attractions

Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo criticized the rigidity of the provincial program’s criteria

A young child has been taken to hospital after being struck by a vehicle on 30th Avenue in Vernon Friday, June 11, 2021. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Child struck by vehicle in downtown Vernon

The young child has been taken to hospital with unknown injuries following the incident on main street

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a summary of this week’s biggest stories from the Okanagan-Shuswap

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Naramata community in shock as condolences pour in for homicide victim Kathy Richardson

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

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

Princeton GSAR responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2020 the crew was called out 34 times, and members spent 721 hours on calls, and 683 hours training. Photo Princeton GSAR Facebook
Teen missing in Manning Park found after 24 hours

Young man spends night on mountain and survives with just a few scrapes

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The RCMP are asking for assistance regarding the death of Kathleen Richardson of Naramata, pictured here. Her death is believed to be related to two homicides in Naramata in May. (RCMP)
Police identify South Okanagan homicide victim as 57-year-old Naramata woman

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday

Two e-scooters parked on the sidewalk along Water Street in downtown Kelowna on Monday, May 3. Scooters parked on walkways are causing accessibility issues for some people with disabilities. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Kelowna General Hospital clinicians observe increase in e-scooter injuries

A report is set to go to city council next week on how the e-scooter pilot has gone thus far

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Most Read