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

Ron getting loose and sipping a glass of the family’s favourite greek amber spirit, Metaxa. (Photo supplied)
In Our Valley: Ron Lechner

Retired part-time singer and Rio Tinto lifer: Ron Lechner

Map of the road work that will be completed this summer. The streets highlighted in red are what the district planned on completing before additional funding, and the streets highlighted in orange is the road works that will be done with the additional funding. (District of Kitimat photo)
$1.1 million allocated for road work this year in Kitimat

Kitimat council has added $470,000 for more work by deferring four other projects.

Hirsch Creek Golf Course Volunteer, Augie Penner, talking about how he continues the tradition, set by Joe Atamchuck, to catch and release fry that keep spawning at the course. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
VIDEO: Kitimat golf course volunteers making moves for the fishlings

During the highwater season, salmon are known to lay their eggs in the ponds at the golf course

Ocean Wise’s cetacean photogrammetry research program uses aerial images collected by boat-launched drones to measure the body condition of whales. (Ocean Wise Marine Mammal License MML-18 photo)
LNG Canada commits $750K to whale research, conservation initiative

Ocean Wise education team will work alongside educational and Indigenous leaders in the area

The Sam Lindsay Aquatic Centre will be closed from June 28 until September 13 for annual facility maintenance as well as teach pool and decking repairs. (Black Press photo)
Sam Lindsay Aquatic Centre closed: June 28 – September 13

The aquatic centre will be closed for annual facility maintenance

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

Most Read