Riley Oldford, 16, suffers from cerebral palsy. He was the first youth in the Northwest Territories to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Here he receives the needle from nurse practitioner Janie Neudorf in Yellowknife on Thursday May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Braden

Riley Oldford, 16, suffers from cerebral palsy. He was the first youth in the Northwest Territories to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Here he receives the needle from nurse practitioner Janie Neudorf in Yellowknife on Thursday May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Braden

People with disabilities even more alone during pandemic: cerebral palsy spokeswoman

Many people with disabilities are at higher risk, but not always prioritized for vaccines

Riley Oldford is usually out playing sledge hockey or hanging out with friends, but since the start of the pandemic he’s mostly been at home.

The 16-year-old, who has cerebral palsy and a chronic lung condition, was the first person in the Northwest Territories under 18 to get vaccinated when he got the shot earlier this month.

The N.W.T. prioritized residents with chronic conditions or at high risk for COVID-19 in its vaccine rollout, but Oldford wasn’t originally eligible because of his age.

On May 6, the territory started offering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to youth between 12 and 17, a day after Health Canada approved its use.

Yellowknife has had relatively few cases of COVID-19 compared with other cities in Canada, but Oldford was taken out of school to reduce the risk of him getting infected.

For the past 14 months, the Grade 10 student has been learning from home.

“By now, I’ve almost gotten used to it,” Oldford said.

Janice Bushfield, president of the Cerebral Palsy Canada Network, said others with disabilities have similar experiences to Oldford.

“Isolation has always been a problem for people with disabilities and the pandemic has magnified that,” Bushfield said.

Bushfield, who lives in Alberta, said those with disabilities and their caregivers were prioritized in the province’s second rollout of vaccinations. Her son, who has cerebral palsy, was recently immunized.

David Kron, executive director of the Cerebral Palsy Association of Manitoba, said the province didn’t initially prioritize people with disabilities.

“The rollout has been based, it seems like, solely on age,” he said.

People with underlying conditions — including asthma, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and heart conditions — were prioritized for the Oxford-Astra Zeneca vaccine, but that wasn’t until late March, Kron said.

Manitobans with cerebral palsy have felt increasingly isolated throughout the pandemic, he added.

“People are tired of this. It’s just trying to get through every day.”

Reporters, photographers and health officials watched as Oldford got his vaccine. They made the teen more nervous than the jab itself, he said.

“That was a lot more people than I’ve been with in the past year. I like people, but I’m not used to them anymore.”

Oldford said he’s taken up playing flight simulation games during the pandemic, which lets him travel virtually. He said he looks forward to the day when he can travel again to see family and friends.

“I have a computer and a joystick and I’ll do little flights around Canada. It’s to pass the time I guess,” he said with a laugh.

Although Oldford has had his first dose, he’ll still need to isolate and keep his distance until he gets his second shot.

He said all his friends plan on being vaccinated, but some are still in isolation after a recent outbreak at one of Yellowknife’s schools that resulted in 64 cases and over 1,000 contacts in the city.

Sharon Oldford, Riley’s mother, said she felt hope watching her son get vaccinated.

“It was just this feeling of hope that life could start to go back to normal, that he could go back to school. He could see his friends,” she said.

She and her husband have been extra cautious throughout the pandemic. They’ve gone beyond public health guidelines to protect Riley, she said, including sanitizing everything that’s brought in the house and changing their clothes when they get home.

“I’m definitely looking forward to the time when we can breathe a little easier and it’s not what you’re thinking about all day, every day,” she said.

As Yellowknife continues to deal with active cases of COVID-19, Oldford hopes people follow public health orders to bring the city’s case count back to zero.

“Isolating for two weeks? I did it for a year. You can do it for two weeks.”

— By Emma Tranter in Iqaluit, Nunavut

___

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

The Canadian Press

CoronavirusdisabilitiesDisability

Just Posted

The new Civic Memorial Park will incorporate pieces of the 80-year-old arena it replaces. (Artists rendering)
Pieces of Civic Arena reclaimed for new Vernon park

City centre space to incorporate wood from the historic arena

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

A motorycle crash has been reported on Westside Road. (Google Maps)
UPDATE: Westside Road reopened following motorcycle crash near Vernon

AIM Roads advises drivers to expect delays due to congestion

Dereck Donald Sears. (Contributed/Crimestoppers)
Murder charge laid in relation to suspicious Kelowna death

Dereck Donald Sears is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Darren Middleton

An Armstrong family that lost their home to a fire on Wednesday still hasn’t found their cat as of Friday, June 18, 2021. (Facebook photo)
Family cat still missing, days after fire destroys Armstrong home

There were no injuries from Wednesday’s blaze, but two days later there’s still no sign of the white feline

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

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

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The B.C. woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

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

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Most Read