Terminally ill B.C. woman's trip in limbo over mixed vaccine doses
A trip to Hawaii in late November is more than just a sunny getaway for Mary Jane Stenberg and her extended family – it could be the last time her daughter-in-law Sydney can travel.
The 25-year-old has been diagnosed with a rare form of terminal bone cancer.
“We don’t know how many more trips Sydney will be able to go on. We feel this might be the last one before she is debilitated and not able to go on anything. So we really want this to be special, we want this to be a wonderful time for her,” said Stenberg.
She’s organized a stay in a secluded home near Honolulu for seven family members, including Sydney and her son. But she’s worried her mixed vaccines may prevent her from travelling to the state. Stenberg had AstraZeneca as her first shot, then Moderna as her second.
“I decided to get it because number one, I have an extremely disabled husband and the sooner I could get a vaccination, the safer he would be. And also I took the advice from the health officer to get the first one available,” said Stenberg.
The U.S. is expected to require proof of vaccination for international travellers by early November, and it’s unclear if it will accept AstraZeneca, which is not approved in that country, or allow anyone with mixed doses to enter.
“I’m taking everyone, and I’m in a situation where if they don’t accept mixed doses or AstraZeneca, we will have to pivot and do something totally different and lose money on what we booked so far,” said Stenberg. Her travel insurance would only refund 70 per cent of the trips cost.
Other provinces, including Alberta and Quebec, are allowing people who got a first dose of AstraZeneca followed by an mRNA shot to get a third booster in order to travel.
“It certainly would be nice if in situations like this that could be available, especially if they have doses that are going to expire or they are going wanting. I would really appreciate the opportunity to come forward and get that,” said Stenberg.
But provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that won’t be an option in B.C., at least for now.
“These things are in flux around the world. So no, we are not systematically providing people with a third dose because we know things are changing,” said Henry, who appears confident British Columbian travellers with mixed doses with be accommodated.
But Stenberg is worried there won’t be a ruling in time for her trip. “To ask the U.S. to quickly make a decision on what vaccines they’re going to recognize is beyond my control,” she said.
As for her decision to get a first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine, rather than waiting longer for mRNA?
“I don’t regret doing it because first and foremost, it is to keep everyone healthy. So I’m glad I did it,” she said. “I’m just sorry that it’s developed into this situation.”
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