Early vaccine recipients share joy, gratitude in their experiences

The vaccine rollout has accelerated, and with it, the number of people whose lives can regain some sense of normalcy. We talk to some of them

By Emily Fagan
March 19, 2021

Early vaccine recipients share joy, gratitude in their experiences

The vaccine rollout has accelerated, and with it, the number of people whose lives can regain some sense of normalcy. We talk to some of them

By Emily Fagan
Mar 19, 2021
Province of BC / Flickr
Province of BC / Flickr

Early vaccine recipients share joy, gratitude in their experiences

The vaccine rollout has accelerated, and with it, the number of people whose lives can regain some sense of normalcy. We talk to some of them

By Emily Fagan
March 19, 2021
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Early vaccine recipients share joy, gratitude in their experiences

This story is part of The Good Newsletter, Capital Daily’s weekly spotlight on uplifting stories and community resources. Subscribe today to receive good news in your inbox every Friday.

Across the Island, vaccine rollout is heating up. At the start of March, BC kicked off its mass immunization campaign, first targeting community members over the age of 80 and Indigenous people older than 65. At this time, many healthcare workers are also still receiving their first dose of the vaccine.

“It's just like this little glimmer of hope,” said Katie Florian, a nurse at Victoria General Hospital. “I don't want to say that has been fading over the past year, but now for sure I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The Vancouver Island Health Authority anticipated it would administer about 17,000 vaccines this week to people across the Island.

For a peek into what the vaccination process has looked like so far, Capital Daily spoke to a few Islanders lucky enough to be vaccinated in the first 10% of Canadians, and one Victoria native currently living abroad.

Like many, Florian said that the past year has been fraught with stress over the virus. Although she works in the hospital’s surgical unit, which she says has a lower risk of exposure than other units, Florian is immunocompromised due to ulcerative colitis. Her anxiety around the pandemic has also triggered painful, extended flare ups of the autoimmune disease, as her symptoms are linked with stress. 

This heightened level of risk has been difficult for Florian to shake from her mind. In the grocery store, a sneeze from someone down the aisle from her would trigger a sense of panic. 

So one January morning, when she saw Victoria General’s vaccination clinic for the first time while on a mid-shift coffee break, it filled her with an overwhelming sense of joy.

“It's so cheesy, I actually got a little bit choked up in line at Tim Hortons waiting for my coffee and watching all these people get vaccinated,” she recalled.  “I'm really excited about it. It means that we might get to see our loved ones without a mask soon and have a little bit of normalcy back, and not have this looming anxiety and stress over everybody, constantly.”

Last week, Florian drove her 95-year-old grandmother to get her first dose of the vaccine. Her grandmother was nervous about the effects of the vaccine, so prior to the appointment Florian visited her daily to talk her through the concerns she had.

“She's a woman of science and she believes in vaccines, but she's also afraid of anything new at this point,” said Florian. “I think she only did it for me, to be perfectly honest.” 

When the day came for her grandmother’s vaccination, it all went smoothly and she didn’t experience any noticeable side effects in the day that followed.

Doreen Tawse-Smith, a 90-year-old Duncan resident who received her vaccine this week, says she is grateful to have received her first dose of the vaccine. She set up her appointment using the vaccine call line, and was impressed by the simplicity of the process when she arrived for her vaccine.

“I have nothing but good things to say for whoever organized it, because it went very smoothly. The actual vaccination was so painless, I didn't even know she jabbed me,” Tawse-Smith said.

Receiving the first dose of the vaccine doesn’t change much in her day-to-day life, Tawse-Smith said. She still intends to continue wearing a mask, distancing, and adhering to provincial health guidelines. However, receiving the vaccine has reduced her fears about dying from COVID-19.

“Everybody should go get their shot,” she said. “Don't be concerned about what kind you're going to get, just get it.”

A member of Island Health’s harm reduction outreach team, who was not authorized to speak to the media, says the entire process of her vaccination appointment at UVic’s McKinnon Gym took less than 30 minutes. The call informing her of her appointment came just hours before the shot itself, the Pfizer vaccine, on the same day. After the adrenaline rush from receiving her shot wore off, she was tired and had some soreness in her arm.

“I personally feel really lucky because most people that I know in my personal life are unfortunately probably a pretty long way off from getting [vaccinated],” she said. 

“The nurse told me not to go crazy breaking the rules or anything. I'm really excited to one day fully be able to go back to seeing all the friends that I used to and going back to seeing live music, going out to eat, and stuff like that.”

Vaccinations across the globe are allowing Canadians to prepare for a future where families living abroad can reunite. Martin McElroy, a Victoria native, hasn’t seen his wife or daughters for months, as he has been living in China for work. This month, he received his second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine, which he says puts him one step closer to potentially seeing his family in person soon.

“I’ve been very fortunate to be able to continue working through the past year but of course I miss my family and life in Victoria,” said McElroy. “We’ve been very fortunate so far, and for that I am very grateful.”

Back in Victoria, things are looking up for Florian. Thursday at 11am, she finally received her first dose of the vaccine after having to reschedule and carefully plan the dose around her regular medical treatments for ulcerative colitis.

“Getting vaccinated just with the first dose [is] huge,” she said. “That's a little bit less anxiety and a little bit less worry.”

Now, she’s looking ahead at the potential of a brighter, safer next few months.

“I'm feeling really optimistic for the summer,” she said. “Seeing all my friends (and eventually family) getting vaccinated is just such a relief. Knowing that they are more protected [is] one less thing to worry about.”

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