28 Mar I’m vaccinated!
What a whirlwind this experience has been.
As a healthcare provider, I truly thought this process would be a breeze. I watched my colleagues from nursing school and my previous coworkers post their vaccination cards on Instagram or their Snapchat stories, but the kicker was – they all worked in hospitals. The truth is, the vaccine rollout hasn’t been the smoothest of processes in Ontario (or Canada for that matter) and all of us community or clinic nurses were kind of lost in translation.
I work in an operating room where we routinely intubate our patients, exposing us nurses, doctors, and anesthesiologists to aerosolized particles on a daily basis. This is definitely a high-risk setting for COVID-19 to jump around, so why was it so hard?
My nursing colleagues and I were on waitlists to book an appointment for our COVID-19 vaccine for about a month. No luck. Finally, one of my co-workers found a clinic (still within the same Public Health region) that was 1-hour away, which was accepting bookings through their online system, conditional that you met the criteria at the time. I was considered to be a “very high” priority healthcare worker and therefore met the criteria to book an appointment. So I went ahead, input my information such as my personal address, where I work, etc. And just like that, it was booked.
Finally, the day of my vaccination rolls around.
I had the day off work and I was excited. I mean really excited. I went and grabbed a pre-emptive celebratory Starbucks on my way, I was dressed in my new favourite sneakers and I had the music cranked in my car. Hell, I even called my Grandma who I don’t really talk to often just to chat about getting the vaccine. Good vibes all around. Driving into the vaccination centre was so exciting. It felt like a little glimmer of hope in what had been a pretty grim last year.
I walked into the vaccination centre and was greeted by a not-so-friendly teenage individual who questioned why I was there. In all fairness, it was mostly those >80 years of age, so I kind of get it. When I explained I was a nurse, she asked to see my badge. For those of you who work in the community or within a clinic, you probably know – we don’t have badges. This employee thought otherwise. After showing her my pay stub proving my employment and my title, she still wasn’t convinced and said she would “be right back”.
Upon her return, she told me I would not be receiving the vaccine today. Every ounce of excitement evaporated from my body. I pleaded with her – “but, I have an appointment… there is a vaccine allocated for me today… can I speak to someone else about this?”. Before she goes to get someone else, I continue to question her on why I was being declined a vaccine; she sternly points to a chair and tells me to either “sit down or leave”. At this point, my eyes were welling up.
The other employee comes to chat with me and essentially reiterates the same points – I would not be receiving my vaccine that day. She shares with me that only nurses who work or live within that city were eligible to receive a vaccine at that specific site (I want to remind you that this was not stated when I signed up – remember, I put in my address, my work address, all for what? And again… this was within the same Public Health unit I live and work in!). She acknowledged that I was right, it wasn’t stated on their online sign-up at the time, but it was now. So… they sent me on my way, un-vaccinated.
I went home that day so frustrated and emotional for a few reasons.
1) I had an appointment.
Meaning, there was in fact a vaccine allocated for me, they just weren’t going to administer it due to their administrative/communicative errors. I had driven an hour there and an hour home (in Toronto rush-hour traffic!) on my day off and I was just so frustrated.
2) I am a nurse. Badge or not.
I felt cheated. I felt that if I had walked in there with a hospital badge, I wouldn’t have been questioned and I would have received my vaccine during my appointment that day. But, where I was employed as a nurse didn’t suit them. Is the point not to vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate? If I live and work under the same Public Health unit, why couldn’t I be vaccinated? It just didn’t make sense.
3) It shouldn’t be this hard.
This was the real kicker in my mind. It’s frustrating to see other countries (i.e. the USA) who have already vaccinated the entire population of Canada and we’re here struggling to roll out vaccines to our frontline healthcare workers. This just made me feel so helpless as to what’s to come. What about the rest of the essential workers? My parents have both had to work in-office throughout the pandemic as “essential workers” and are in their 50s – when will they get a vaccine? When will I be able to safely see them again?
Following all of this, I received a lot of feedback from fellow healthcare workers on Instagram. I chatted with them about their experiences, their frustrations and their struggles in their own vaccination experiences. This certainly hasn’t been smooth sailing for many.
Thankfully, with plenty of calls and lots of research, I found numerous new vaccination clinics that had not been available when I had previously booked my (initial) appointment. One was even just down the road from my house and had so many vaccination appointments available. I was starting to feel hopeful again.
This process was seamless. Easy peasy. First-the-worst, second-the-best. It was a go. I booked an appointment for my day off, at my preferred time, and it was all set. I would be vaccinated on March 26, 2021 – almost exactly 1 year after I was sick in bed with COVID.
When I showed up to my appointment, I joined a (relatively short) line to enter the vaccination centre, confirmed my appointment and eligibility at the first check-point, confirmed my information at the second checkpoint, joined an (actually short) line and it was happening – I was about to be vaccinated! I had a wonderful female doctor (yes, lady bosses!!) administer my Pfizer vaccine and she encouraged me to video the whole thing – she understood what a monumental moment this was.
Now, about 2 days after my vaccine, I have a mildly sore arm and remnants of an achy body, but otherwise, I’m feeling well, happy and grateful. Grateful to be vaccinated. Grateful to be eligible to be vaccinated. Happy to be a part of the movement towards re-introducing a sense of normalcy in the world. Happy that this brings me one step closer to hugging my friends and family. Just, really happy.
Looking back on this experience, I see that this system is flawed.
There is a lot of work that needs to be done in expediting vaccine availability and administration. We also need to be encouraging others to get vaccinated against COVID-19. At the end of the day, of course, it is a personal choice. However, when taking into account the lives and well-being of myself, my partner, my family, my patients, my friends, my coworkers, etc., the choice to get vaccinated was a no-brainer for me.
I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the vaccine, your experience getting (or not getting) vaccinated and just your general thoughts on the matter. No judgement by me, feel free to share in the comments!
Cheers from this vaccinated lady,