“Freedom” and “relief” were among words buzzing around the Amica White Rock residence Friday morning, as nearly a dozen nurses worked to immunize the facility’s 160 residents from COVID-19 by day’s end.
The clinic, scheduled twice previously but ultimately pushed to Jan. 15, was among the last held in Fraser Health long-term care and assisted-living facilities since the health authority began its rollout. According to a news release issued Friday morning, all 151 such facilities in the region were to have completed vaccination clinics by the end of the day.
Larry O’Brien, outgoing chair of the residents’ council at Amica White Rock, described receiving the vaccine as akin to getting out of jail.
“I feel free,” the senior said, moments after rolling up his sleeve for the first of the vaccine’s two doses.
“Getting that vaccine in my arm, it’s such a big relief. This is good protection, even without phase 2.”
Senior care-home residents – who have been particularly impacted by health orders enacted since the pandemic was declared last March – were among groups identified as high-priority to receive the vaccine. It arrived in Canada in mid-December, and B.C. received its first shipments about a week later.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer versions require two doses over several weeks to reach their highest effectiveness.
At Amica Friday, health care workers administering the shots could be heard assuring residents it was not a live vaccine, and that they need not worry about contracting the virus from it. As well, that they might experience flu-like symptoms after receiving it, and that it would take about two weeks for the vaccine to start taking effect.
Justin Penney, Amica’s community relations director, said the excitement in the air was palpable Friday morning as the vaccination clinic got underway.
“We’ve been ready,” he said of the facility’s preparedness for the vaccine rollout. “We’ve been wanting it as soon as we can get it.”
Penney said he received his first dose at an undisclosed off-site location on Thursday (Jan. 14). The first of Amica’s staff members received it on Dec. 27, and any leftover doses from Friday’s clinic will go first to any staff who have not yet received it, he said.
(The issue of who gets excess vaccine doses from such clinics was thrust into the limelight earlier this week, after Fraser Health officials confirmed that a director at Peace Arch Hospital and two of her family members were offered doses leftover from a Dec. 28 clinic at Royal Columbian Hospital.)
Penney said he has had no side effects from the vaccine so far, and that everyone is looking forward to the greater freedoms that it is anticipated to bring. Things like hugs and holding hands make “a huge difference in the lives of our residents,” he said.
Helene and Austin Cable said they miss family and the freedom to go shopping, and have been “very much looking forward” to receiving the vaccine.
It means “freedom,” Austin said.
Exactly when hugs and other “normal” activities will be able to resume, however, remains unclear, Penney said.
“It’s not going to be a snap of the finger,” he said.
Amica, he continued, is listening to Fraser Health, and will continue with the protective measures that are currently in place until told it is safe to do otherwise.