Woman with MS receives earlier second COVID-19 dose after weeks of advocacy
Lindsey Martchenko receiving treatment for her MS symptoms (Supplied: Lindsey Martchenko)
STRATFORD -- A Stratford woman with multiple sclerosis pushing for an earlier second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in order to not disrupt her MS treatment was granted an exception to get the jab – but by another health unit.
Lindsey Martchenko, who every six months receives an infusion of Ocrevus, a medication to treat multiple sclerosis, said she received her second vaccine dose Thursday after weeks of advocating health officials and local politicians to make a dosing interval exception.
But Martchenko said she had to drive to the Lambton Public Health region, two hours away, to receive the shot.
"I was approved on an exception basis," Martchenko said Friday. "I was really lucky they would take me as a non-resident."
Patients on Ocrevus are advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine 12 weeks after their last treatment, and not resume treatment until a month after they've been fully vaccinated, Martchenko's neurologist, Dr. Courtney Cassidy, previously told CTV News.
The medication prevents inflammation in the brain and spinal cord but can hinder the build of antibodies, making patients more susceptible to severe cases of COVID-19, Cassidy said.
Martchenko said without the medication she could relapse, triggering mobility issues or even vision loss, putting her in a situation to choose between a COVID-19 vaccine or her MS treatment.
She received her first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in late March. Her next Ocrevus treatment was scheduled for May 11.
Had she been forced to wait until July, when her second dose appointment was originally scheduled, she wouldn't have been able to resume her MS treatment until August – meaning she'd be without her medication for months.
Martchenko opted to cancel her May 11 Ocrevus treatment appointment and received her second COVID-19 vaccine dose this week.
"Now, my infusion is only delayed by a month," Martchenko said.
She said many with MS don't know some health units are willing to make exceptions.
"I was lucky that I asked," she said.
Martchenko's local health unit, Huron Perth Public Health, said in an email it will continue to "follow the provincial direction on timelines for second doses," adding the list of those eligible for an earlier second dose expanded this week.
Now, Martchenko is still advocating for the province to expidite dosing invervals for MS patients and is raising concerns over why some health units are willing to make exceptions and others aren't.
"There's a very small percentage of people who need this exception," she said, adding many with MS have mobility issues, making travel to other regions that will grant exceptions difficult.
"This wasn’t just for me," she said. "I'm helping the cause. I'll definitely continue to fight."