Although they live together, Sophia Malthus will have to find new caregivers to replace her own unvaccinated mother – expanding her bubble beyond her desire or control.
Sophia Malthus takes containment measures very seriously.
After a spinal cord injury from a horseback riding accident five years ago left her quadriplegic, the 24-year-old needs to be especially alert to the virus that continues to spread in Auckland.
Diseases affecting the respiratory system can be particularly dangerous for survivors of spinal cord injury, who may have an impaired ability to breathe, swallow or cough independently and have decreased overall immunity. Respiratory infections kill more spinal cord survivors than any other cause.
So, every time the lockdown has been called in the past two years, Malthus has been diligent in keeping his bubble small and his risk level low.
“Since the start of this lockdown, I haven’t had a picnic – I’ve left home twice,” she said. Living with her parents and with her mother as one of her primary paid caregivers, she was able to keep her bubble tight and controlled to reduce the risk of infection from outside.
But a clarification made yesterday by the Ministry of Health to its healthcare agency calls into question its ability to continue to do so.
She has learned that by next week, when healthcare workers need to get vaccinated, the agency will be forced to come up with a new plan and replace her mother with other caregivers.
Malthus’ mother is not medically vaccinated, and despite a letter from her attending physician, she has yet to receive confirmation from the Department of Health to be exempt from the warrant.
And with the tenure going into effect next week, Malthus fears he will be caught off guard and forced to inflate his bubble far beyond his comfort zone.
With her mother working five 12-hour shifts a week, her replacement would likely require a number of new caregivers.
“It really scares me, because in all the deadlocks we’ve been in before, we’ve automatically entered a very tight bubble,” she said. “I live with my parents – my stepfather quickly started working from home. And we have three more caregivers coming in, but they were also in very tight bubbles, and I really trust them. “
But now, a rule that is presumably in place to protect her puts her at greater risk.
“This mandate, which aims to protect me, roughly doubles my exposure to Covid,” she said. “I’ll have two or three new caregivers come into the house and they all have their own families that they live with, and everyone wants to go back to work – so my bubble would be bigger than everyone’s bubble.”
The tenure leaves her in the absurd position she still lives with her mother in, but cannot get CCA funding to play the role of caregiver due to the risk she poses on paper by being near. of his own daughter.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” said Malthus. “I could understand the logic if it came from another household.” And she is sure that she is not the only one affected by the rule. Many members of the disability community have members of their household who act as caregivers – especially during the pandemic, when keeping the bubbles manageable has become a part of life.
“I am very scared for myself and for other people with disabilities whose family members are working to reduce their bubble and their risks,” said Malthus.
The solution, she suggests, is to give people with disabilities a little more decision-making power in their own lives.
“People with disabilities should be able to decide who takes care of us,” she said. “You can’t expect the government to look at each person on a case-by-case basis. “
And unless you do, it seems that the general rule of mandate of vaccines for health workers has created at least one counterintuitive situation.
The Ministry of Health’s mandate update of the Covid Ordinance states that healthcare and disability workers must receive their first dose of the vaccine by November 15, 2021 and be fully immunized by January 1, 2022.
“A high rate of vaccinations will help protect staff from disease and transmission of Covid-19 to others,” the Ministry of Health website says after the order details.
This clearly does not apply to Malthus’ mother, who will share her house, whether she is a caregiver or not. But in a time-critical Mandate rollout, situations like that of Malthus and his mother seem to have been overlooked.
“While most of the people working in these sectors are already fully or partially vaccinated, we cannot leave anything to chance and make it mandatory,” Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said when announcing the mandate of the health and disability workers early last month.
“It’s not an easy decision, but we need people who work with vulnerable communities who have not yet been vaccinated to take this extra step.
Hipkins made the announcement nearly a month ago, but Malthus said his care agency initially said his mother would not be affected. It wasn’t until this week that the agency got back to the Malthus family and told them that in fact, they were under order.
And with the first doses needed next week, they don’t have much time to come up with another plan.
At this point, all Malthus can really do is hope for a change of mind from the Department of Health.
“I don’t know what to do,” she said.