Local family confronts high costs of respiratory virus vaccine amid healthcare inequities

Local family confronts high costs of respiratory virus vaccine amid healthcare inequities

By William Crooks

Local Journalism Initiative

Local Hélène Hayes Cunningham shared an eye-opening account with The Record of the financial and healthcare challenges faced by her family due to the expensive Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccine. This account underscores the broader issue of vaccine affordability and accessibility in Canada. This situation is exacerbated by recent concerns over emergency room overcrowding and the healthcare system’s strained capacity to handle increasing patient numbers.

In a Dec. 19 interview, Cunningham recounted that the issue came to light in early December when her 44-year-old son, a resident of Beaconsfield and father to two young children aged four and seven, contracted RSV. His severe illness led him to advise his parents to get vaccinated. Cunningham, aged 76 and recently having undergone knee replacement surgery, and her 81-year-old husband, who has asthma and diabetes, were prime candidates for the vaccine.

Upon consulting their healthcare provider, Dr. Suzanne Banfill at the Bishop’s University healthcare center, the Cunninghams were prescribed the vaccine. However, they were informed about its high cost – initially quoted at $175 but later billed at $288.75 per dose. This brought the total cost for the couple to nearly $600, a significant financial burden.

“For preventive medicine we’re close to $600 down. And I would have taken it anyway because I’ve been navigating the health care system and I truly believe in taking care of myself first. But… I feel it’s thoroughly unjust for people who don’t have the means to not be able to have access to this,” Cunningham explained.

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