Terminally ill NC mother tells state ‘Please listen to us’ as cancer patients get bumped down vaccine priority list

Coronavirus

CORNELIUS, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – A local mother battling cancer has spent weeks trying to get answers from North Carolina officials after the state adjusted its vaccination priority list and her eligibility group got pushed back.

Finally, she tells Fox 46, the Department of Health and Human Services responded.

Adiba Barney and other cancer patients will have to wait even longer to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But time is something Barney, who lives in Cornelius with her husband and young son, doesn’t have. She is fighting stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. She takes 20 pills a day and undergoes daily chemo treatments.

“Always. Forever and ever until I take my last breathe. It’s part of our lives,” she says.

Fox 46 first introduced you to Barney in January. She was calling on the state to re-evaluate its vaccination plan. When North Carolina adjusted its priority list to vaccinate people 65 and older, Barney and members of her breast cancer support group got pushed from Phase Two, Group Two to Group Four.

“I’m not just representing me. I want everyone to be able, you know that are going through terminal diseases and treatments to be able to get it,” Barney says.

Dozens of emails, phone calls, and voice mails to Governor Roy Cooper’s office, state and local health departments, and Health Secretary Mandy Cohen went unanswered. Then, about a week ago, she finally got a response from Dr. Cohen’s office. She read part of it to me over Zoom.

“They chose to vaccinate those 65-plus first because, while they account for only 15% of COVID-19 cases, they make up 83% of deaths in North Carolina.”

The email from Secretary Cohen’s office goes on to say that “with vaccine supplies so limited, we are prioritizing vaccinating those who are at the highest risk of getting and suffering severe illness from COVID-19.”

Barney says that’s her.

“We are, according to studies by American Cancer Society for instance, we have as high risk as 80-year-olds to die from COVID.”

The state’s response also says the reason that adults with high-risk medical conditions will receive the vaccine after frontline essential workers is because they ‘are more able to stay socially distanced and safe at home.’

Barney says on top of being terminally ill and weak from treatments, her frequent doctor and hospital visits put her at further risk of contracting coronavirus.

“It is not true that we are not exposed to it and that we can choose to be safe and stay at home because we have to go to the hospital to be treated for our cancer.”

Barney says she was hoping for action from state health officials. She wrote back asking if they have any cancer patients on their advisory committees and offered her services. In the meantime, she encourages others to keep fighting. 

“Keep telling them that we’re here, please listen to us. “

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