Squamish dental hygienist Julie Harrison says she felt more emotional than she expected while getting the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination at The 55 Activity Centre last week.
Staff from dentistry, medical and other health-related offices in Squamish were able to register and receive their vaccine last week.
By the end of the week, all 15 staff at the Squamish Dental Clinic office where Harrison works were vaccinated.
The provincial government recently ramped up vaccinations and announced that more than 300,000 front-line workers, including first responders, grocery store employees, teachers and childcare workers, are next in line for vaccines.
Any British Columbian who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by the end of the summer, if not sooner, according to the province.
Harrison said getting the shot sparked an overwhelming and unexpected feeling of being on the other side, almost, of this pandemic.
"We were all kind of excited, excited, excited and then we went and I was sitting down—it was actually a pharmacist who was doing it for me—and while she is right in the middle of doing the shot I said, 'Thank you so much. You guys are so well organized. I didn't think it would happen this quickly, and I am really grateful and this has been a really long time coming.' And I started to get emotional," Harrison recalled.
"The whole thing just hit me of this whole year we have had and I can't believe I am sitting here and actually getting this vaccine. I was so excited."
She said the process was quick and painless.
"From the time that I walked in the doors to the time that I was actually sitting with the [pharmacist] giving me my shot was probably five to seven minutes," she said, adding that after the shot you stay in another room under observation for about 15 minutes.
Harrison spoke to The Chief the day after she got her shot and said her arm was a bit sore at the injection site, but she had not experienced any other side effects.
She said she understands that some people are nervous about getting the shot, but was grateful for the opportunity to get it.
"I believe in the whole process. I believe in scientists. I believe in the bigger picture of what is going on. I understand that there can always be concerns. Even though I believe in vaccines, I [did] have that little moment where you hesitate and think, 'I am putting something into my body.' But I believe in it so much and in the greater good. We need to get back to normal. I was more than happy and more than willing [to get the shot] and just thrilled with the whole process."
Dental Hygienists' Association weighs in
Andrea Burton, the executive director of the British Columbia Dental Hygienists' Association (BCDHA), told The Chief that there's no formal policy that says hygienists must be vaccinated.
"BCDHA acknowledges that every individual has the right to make an informed decision on their own personal health. That said, we certainly hope all dental hygienists will consider the vaccination as an important step towards protecting themselves, their patients and the population. Regardless of the choice they make, we expect all hygienists to uphold the social distancing and safety orders that have been put in place by the public health officer," she said. "Dental hygienists and other oral health care providers are already experts in how to appropriately use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and we know they will continue to adhere to the profession's high standards in this regard."
Looking forward to seeing grandkids again
Sue Hutton, 69, is a Squamish dental assistant who also got her shot last week.
She has asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), so the possibility of catching COVID-19 has been a big concern for her.
"I haven't been anywhere. I come to work, and I go home. My husband does all the groceries," she said.
"I was thrilled to be getting this shot so early."
She said, with a chuckle, that the hardest part of the whole process was the walk over to the centre.
Like Harrison, she praised how organized the whole process was.
She had a bit of soreness at the injection site the night after receiving the shot, but nothing else since.
Once she has her second dose, she is most looking forward to time with her grandchildren.
"My kids used to come every second weekend and bring the grandkids and that has come to a dead stop," she said.
It is no secret that some in Squamish and beyond are nervous about or even opposed to COVID-19 vaccination.
Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) reiterated to The Chief that the rollout of the approved vaccines will help reduce the spread of the virus.
"Vaccines save lives by preventing disease, especially for people most likely to have severe illness. When you receive the vaccine, it causes your body to develop antibodies against COVID-19. These antibodies offer you protection and prepare your immune system if you ever come in contact with the virus," the emailed statement reads.
"The COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved by Health Canada are safe, effective and will save lives. Canada has one of the most rigorous regulatory systems to authorize new vaccines for use."
According to VCH, the most common side-effects associated with the vaccines include some soreness of the arm at the injection site, body chills, feeling tired and feverish. These side effects do not pose a risk to health.
You can also speak to your physician or nurse practitioner.
The health authority advises all Squamish residents that provincial public health orders remain in place.
"COVID-19 continues to circulate in communities across B.C. and all residents need to do their part to limit its spread and to protect others in their community," a spokesperson for VCH said.
"VCH strongly encourages Squamish residents to continue to avoid social gatherings with those outside of their immediate bubbles, to stay home while sick, to wash their hands regularly, and to maintain physical distance when in public."
Those who have previously contracted and recovered from COVID-19 are also advised to adhere to all public health guidance.