It would be normal to feel hesitant about being one of the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but many in line at the very first COVID-19 vaccine clinic for the Provincial Health Services Authority in January, were sure of their decision.
“I knew the vaccine had been well studied and the immune response triggered in my body was not going to be different than if I had been getting the flu shot,” says BC Children’s Emergency Department Physician Dr. Meghan Gilley. “To be honest, I wasn’t nervous. I was very grateful, and I continue to be extremely grateful for my access to the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Meghan was six months pregnant at the time and now has a healthy, happy seven-month old boy, Henry. He has since had all of the recommended childhood vaccines with no issues.
Jeff Scott, a BC Emergency Health Services Infant Transport Team paramedic, was also one of the first in line for the shot.
“I wasn’t worried about it. I’ve taken medication lots of times from the doctor that I don’t extensively research,” says Jeff. “I’m not a molecular scientist. I live my life with the professionals doing their jobs and me doing mine. If public health says it’s safe, I’ll take it.”
Kyle Yrjola was a nurse in the BC Children’s Emergency Department when he received his first shot. He lost his grandmother during the pandemic and couldn’t say goodbye to her because he provided direct care to COVID-19 positive patients. He now works for Vancouver Coastal Health, supporting COVID-19 immunizations for children with complex health needs.
For him, and many other health-care workers, it was devastating to see rallies in front of hospitals against the mandate for health-care workers in B.C. to be vaccinated.
“I had a pit in my stomach for days,” he says. “It was so discouraging. It’s difficult for me to even read the news articles or hear about it. Having to go to the hospital and worrying about a pandemic, while you’re trying to recover, celebrate a new life or say goodbye to a loved one, and to be bombarded by that is just heartbreaking. I have friends that work at all the other health sites in Kelowna, Kamloops and Vancouver General Hospital. It was a really low moment for everyone.”
“It’s saddening to see we can go from 7 p.m. cheers to this, when we’re feeling so low about the growing Delta variant cases.”
Jeff felt bad for those inside the hospitals, trying to do their jobs, caring for people, including many unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.
“I think its frustrating because people are not getting on board to help their fellow citizens and now we’re having to go down this route. For me, it’s an avoidable situation to start with.”
We anticipate that, starting October 26, all health-care workers will need to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment. This includes staff, physicians, students, volunteers and contractors/subcontractors.
When it comes to other health care workers being vaccinated, Meghan has a few thoughts to help encourage them.
“Your risk of becoming seriously unwell or even moderately unwell from COVID-19 is not insignificant, even if you are previously healthy. The vaccine is the best thing you can do to protect yourself, your family and your patients,” she says.
“Medicine is a team sport and we all have to work together to provide the best care for our patients. Part of that is protecting yourself and protecting your co-workers.”
Vaccination can also provide protection for those who aren’t eligible for the vaccine when those around them are immunized.
“I still wear full personal protective equipment at work to protect myself, but I go into work with a clear conscience and a clear mind, even with a baby at home who is too young for the COVID-19 vaccine, knowing that I have that extra protection by being vaccinated,” she says.
Jeff thinks about all of the COVID-19 patients he’s seen as a paramedic when he thinks about the importance of vaccination.
“I’ve seen some pretty sick COVID-19 patients,” he says. “Certainly going through the areas we normally access at all the different hospitals, we’ve had to go around COVID-19 wards, and see intubated patients and ICUs that are overflowing. We go to every hospital in the province. A lot of people work pretty hard. The sooner this is over, the better.”
“If they hesitated to be one of the first to be vaccinated, I can maybe understand that anxiety, but there’s been millions and millions of vaccines given out and the reactions are as predicted. At some point, you have to trust the professionals and realize that government officials aren’t the ones creating the vaccines. You have to trust the professionals many times in your life. This is one of those times.”
Dr. Julie Bettinger is a professor of pediatrics for UBC and BC Children's Hospital Vaccine Evaluation Center. She has been researching vaccines since 2004 and stresses the importance of COVID-19 vaccines to protect people from serious illness and help B.C. reach herd immunity to curb the spread of the virus.
“Almost eight million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given in B.C. and we know that they are safe and effective,” she says.
“There is too much misinformation online and I always encourage people to use well-known, trustworthy and reliable sources of information that are accountable for their work. This can include peer-reviewed scientific journal articles, well-known media sources with solid reputations and family physicians or public health immunizers. They can point them in the right direction.”
If you are feeling hesitant about the vaccine, we encourage you to visit the BCCDC’s website as a source of trusted information, including their FAQs about the vaccine.