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

Rebecca Neudorf and Siddhartha Minhas express the joyful atmosphere of this year’s grad cavalcade. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
PHOTOS AND VIDEO: Nelson grads and proud parents celebrate a community milestone

Saturday’s cavalcade was graced with perfect weather

Forty sled dogs were seized by the BC SPCA from a Salmo kennel in February. A recent ruling has decided the dogs won’t be returned. Photo: Gounsil/Flickr
BC Farm Industry Review Board rules against Salmo kennel after 40 sled dogs seized

Spirit of the North Kennels was also ordered to pay BC SPCA $64,000

Protestors blocking Columbia Avenue Saturday evening. Photo: Betsy Kline
Old growth protesters block Castlegar’s main street for 24 hours

Members of Extinction Rebellion stayed overnight in downtown Castlegar

A bear-proof waste container at Lakeside Park. Not all garbage bins at the park are bear-proof. Photo: Tyler Harper
VIDEO: Bear observed eating from garbage bin in Lakeside Park

The City of Nelson is gradually adding bear-proof bins throughout the city

Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson. Photo: Tyler Harper
NEWS AND VIEWS: Businesses still need assistance even in a more normal summer

Tom Thomson writes about a new Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce initiative

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

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

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

Most Read