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Kendall Worth: For people on income assistance the vaccine can’t come soon enough

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – As you readers all know a vaccine for COVID-19 is on the horizon. However, even though Nova Scotia has received shipments of the vaccine, the sad news is we are not all going to get vaccinated at once. This is sad news for lots of people, including income assistance recipients.

First in line are frontline healthcare workers and old people in long term care facilities. Then come other front line priority groups. Finally, the rest of the population in Nova Scotia. This third category is where income assistance recipients fit in.

Note, I am not arguing that income assistance recipients should be first in line.

One person I interviewed for this story however brought up, “what about grocery store workers? Shouldn’t they be in line to get the vaccine among the first?” This person then said “After all, Kendall, groceries are an essential service. Just like healthcare workers, grocery store workers are putting their lives on the line these days as well.”

Some people on income assistance tell me that fitting in the 3rd category for the vaccine is sad news for them. It is sad news for various reasons. 

First, as this article here points out, Kendall Worth: How the second lockdown affects people on income assistance, COVID-19 has kept them in social isolation for the longest time. Even though in recent weeks the libraries and the mall food courts have reopened, places like Souls Harbour and Hope Cottage, plus other meal programs are still doing take out meals only. Income assistance recipients depend on these places not only for the free meals they offer, but also for Socialization and people are now worried that they are going to continue take-out meals until everyone is vaccinated. 

This article here, Kendall Worth: Check-up time,  illustrates why it was important to check in on people who I advocate for, and that remains true over the next several months while vaccines are slowly being distributed throughout Nova Scotia. 

When income assistance recipients ask people like their family doctors or social workers and counselors how soon they can expect to receive the COVID vaccine, the answer they get is, “Oh, maybe by July, August, or September. 

Income assistance recipients are saying that they have been isolated from their social contacts long enough, but if we have to prepare for these extra few months then we got no choice. 

The problem is there’s only so much vaccine available to go around to everyone who wants and needs the vaccine.  One solution to the problem is the federal government could up the amount of COVID vaccine they send to the provinces, but this is unlikely to happen.

I want to end this article by bringing up one more thing. 

Even though recipients are saying that they are prepared for those few extra months of feeling the extra social isolation, there is one thing some of them told me very much wish they did not have to wait for.

This applies to the few income assistance recipients lucky to have one or two family members they talk to. They tell me that “we wish we did not have to wait until we get the vaccine before we can finally make a plan to visit family.”

This includes myself, as I have to hold off until I get my COVID vaccine before I can make a plan to see my niece and nephews who live 40 minutes outside of Antigonish. 

Let’s hope that times will get better sooner rather than later and that a miracle will happen and we will get the vaccine sooner than predicted!

Kendall Worth is an award-winning anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.

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