The COVID-19 vaccine in Canada

Today I received the COVID-19 vaccine.

(Written on March 30, 2021)

What vaccine did you get? 

Moderna, first dose.

When? 

30th March 2021

Where? 

Toronto (Canada), at the Wellesley Community Centre (thanks to Sherbourne Health).

Why? 

Since November 2020 I have been a volunteer atThe Corner, a Toronto NGO that offers different services in the St. James Town community (to find out more, I wrote about it in this story). I help “The Corner”, bringing lunch to the elderly and isolated people of the neighborhood (for social and physical reasons) - thus having a contact with them, even if short and limited.

How? 

With the first vaccinations, "The Corner" had anticipated that, as "essential" volunteers, we could receive the vaccine in the early stages, and they included me on the waiting list. I think this happened two months ago. Yesterday, Monday 29 March 2021, they called me back to confirm my interest. I said yes but I was ready to wait several more months.

The day after their last call, Tuesday 30th March 2021, surprisingly, they call me and tell me they have a place for the same day, in just a few minutes. Obviously I accept. I finish my delivery shift super excited, even getting the buildings and doors wrong (I was volunteering indeed) and, 45 minutes after that call, I got the vaccine.

What data/information did they ask you?

When they put me on the waiting list they asked me for my name, surname, date of birth and telephone number. I didn't do anything else. When they called me to confirm the appointment, they asked for my health card, which I don't have. My legal status in Canada is “visitor” (for extended family reunification), with an approved IEC / Working Holiday Visa. They tell me they need to check with their superiors. They call me back a few minutes later telling me that there is no problem, I can get vaccinated.

How did it go?

They vaccinated me inside the Wellesley Community Center basketball court which looked something like this:

  1. THE FIRST SCREENING

I show up at the Wellesley Community Center a few minutes before the indicated time. There is no queue, the two boys at the entrance ask me the classic screening questions "Do you have these symptoms?", they give me a new mask and let me in.

  1. THE REGISTRATION

There are four desks where you need to reconfirm your registration. They ask me for my name, surname, date of birth, address, email, telephone number and health card (which I didn't have but it wasn't a problem). No other information. I queue for less than two minutes. All recording was done with a tablet.

  1. THE VACCINATION

There are 7 desks. They make me go to number 7. My doctor was very young, she introduces herself, she makes me sit down and tells me that the vaccine I will receive today is Moderna. She reconfirms her registration details on her tablet, she does the standard detailed screening to give a vaccine.

She told me I will get the second dose after 4 months.

"Do you have other questions?"

"Yes, what's your name again?"

She smiles.

"Warda"

She vaccinates me. How happy I was!

  1. THE OBSERVATION

After the vaccination, she gives me this sheet here below where I find the information on possible side effects. I move towards the last step. They give me a number and I sit down for 15 minutes. We are called in turn, like a bingo number draw. It makes me smile. Super organized.

  1. CHECK OUT

They reconfirm my registration details and ask me how I am. They give me the receipt of the vaccine, which they then emailed me as well. I go out. I am vaccinated. The whole process went very quickly.

How did you feel? Did you have fever?

On the day of the vaccine I only felt pain in my arm and nothing more, no other symptoms. The day after the vaccine, the pain in my arm was stronger and I felt very weak. I took vitamins (which I often take) and ibuprofen for the pain. I didn't have a fever.

And the second dose?

They told me it will be in 4 months. I don't have a date/appointment. They should call me. I wait.

How are vaccinations going in Canada?

To be honest, not very well. On the WHO vaccine tracking system (link here), you can browse a bit and see that Canada lags behind countries like the United States, and even Italy. There were a lot of problems in the initial phase (organization and orders) but I'm sure things will improve soon.

To find out what vaccines Canada uses and how it is organized, this is the official link.

Is your partner vaccinated?

No, Shreyank has not yet received the vaccine but is on the waiting list. He registered on his internal employee portal, which is the hospital UNH in Toronto. In theory, he too should receive it shortly since he is considered "essential" (he works for a hospital but in an office position, so he has always been at home).

I was extremely lucky, and I know it shouldn't be, in fact I feel incredibly guilty and shy for receiving the vaccine long before those who really need it. But I think it was my responsability to accept it. The administration and management of the vaccination campaign is not in the hands of individual citizens and hating each other does not really make any sense. 

I feel extremely grateful to "The Corner" for giving me this chance. The area in which they intervene, St. James Town, is a complex and isolated community, and I am happy that the vaccination campaign has arrived there.

I am in good health, I am less than 30 years old, and if you really want to say it, I am not even a Canadian citizen. And at the moment I am also unemployed...honestly I didn't really think I would receive it.

I was lucky.

As they vaccinated me, tears came from my eyes. How much was taken from us during this pandemic? Really too much. I felt immense joy, and without a doubt I say it was one of the happiest days ever. I felt a real sense of hope after more than a year of darkness: I saw the light at the end of this damn tunnel. As soon as I left the center, I ran home and on the street I had a great desire to dance (at home I even took a shower listening to "Happy" by Pharrell Williams!)

I open the door of the house and begin to cry in front of Shreyank: a liberating cry, of pure happiness. Psychedelic happiness, like my patch that I'll be framing soon!

[I'm certainly not the one who tells you that you need to vaccinate, or trust science, but I think we all have a small area of responsibility in this pandemic and it's up to us to turn it into action: masks, hand washing, distancing, and vaccine].

Thanks for reading until here.

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