COVID-19 Vaccination Series: First efforts going smoothly despite some hesitancy, by Paula Bernardino

This piece was submitted to the Citizen Journal project of the Peter-McGill Community Council. Please note that the opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of our organization. This project aims to create space for the voices of residents, students and friends of the neighbourhood through articles, photos, videos, and podcasts in any language. Are you interested in contributing? Contact us at benevolat@petermcgill.org!

Copy of Covid-19 prompt(1)

As the daughter of parents, 73 and 77, worried and scared about getting vaccinated because they both have blood conditions, I wanted to do this article to investigate the experience of people who already received their first dose and those waiting for their age group to be eligible.

I spoke to Ana Gubert-Gomes, 79 and a resident of Verdun who got vaccinated March 7 with the Pfizer vaccine at Montreal’s General Hospital. She told me she booked her appointment herself online and found the process really easy. And she only had to wait 5 days between the moment she booked and the actual appointment date. Since the day she received her first dose, there’s been negative news regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine. I asked Ana if she had to book her appointment today, if she would be worried to be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine. She said:  “I would prefer Pfizer or Moderna, but I would take the first that would be offered to me.”

Indeed, since the beginning of April, the coverage of the AstraZeneca vaccine being linked to potential blood clots incidents seems to have made people hesitant. On the first weekend of April, in Montreal alone, 5,000 appointments were left unfulfilled. The no-shows are happening all over Canada. That first week of April, city staff in Toronto were urging people to claim the 7,000 appointments that were still open for the week.

I asked Stéphane Prud’homme, PhD(c), Founder and CEO of the Credibility Institute and a resident of Peter-McGill to explain the communication problem affecting the trust and credibility of the government’s message related to the vaccination campaign:

“The problem with the lack of trust in vaccines is that the government and the pharmaceutical companies have no communication strategy to encourage people to get vaccinated. If there is no trust, there is no credibility. This means that if the population does not believe the messages sent by the government, there is no communication possible. Therefore, there is no influence. We must always build trust first and then try to influence and convince people. It is still possible to convince the population, but the government must develop a communication strategy to build trust and credibility.”

I passed by Decarie Square on April 7, a vaccination spot that experienced many no-shows since the beginning of the month when many people were surprised to see the AstraZeneca vaccine being offered there. There wasn’t much action going on. A couple had stopped at the entrance of the vaccination area and was asking questions to the representative, who was very nice and calm, explaining they were offering the AstraZeneca vaccine at that spot.

I also spoke to my friend Rosana Pires-Gonçalves whose mom, 66, lives on the Plateau and received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at Palais des Congrès on March 17.

“My mom booked her appointment herself online. She is the youngest of her family so she also ensured her older brothers and sisters had booked or helped them book their appointments, said Rosana. As a daughter, I am relieved my mom got her first dose. And yes, if my mom was going for her appointment today I would be worried she got offered the AstraZeneca vaccine because we have a history of blood conditions in our family.”

I received a similar testimonial of relief from a daughter whose father, 83, received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine in Laval on March 13. She too, would have been worried if her father would’ve been offered the AstraZeneca vaccine because of his age and medical conditions of diabetes and high blood pressure.

Sylvia Pinto, who lives in Laval and works in Ville Saint-Laurent, is 52 and her eligibility is getting close.

“I just had that conversation with a friend who can now take the AstraZeneca since she’s over 55. If I could I would take it. My boss and his wife took the AstraZeneca and they are fine, says Sylvia. Most of my friends my age are eager to get any vaccine and are not worried about the side effects. The general consensus is the more we vaccinate, the safer we are so we can move on from the whole pandemic.”

Hence, it seems the more people can discuss and share their experiences, especially when positive, it will help and encourage others to get through the vaccination.

There are now 5 Montreal walk-in clinics open for AstraZeneca vaccines. According to an article in CTV News Montreal:

“Montrealers wanting an AstraZeneca vaccine without an appointment have more options available to them. Five walk-in clinics are open to people between 55 and 79 at the following locations, according to the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Ile-de-Montreal:

  •         Aréna Bob-Birnie (58 Maywood Ave.)
  •         Centre sportif Dollard-Saint-Laurent (707 75e Ave.)
  •         Centre civique Dollard-des-Ormeaux (12001 De Salaberry Blvd.) 
  •         Centre communautaire Gerry-Robertson (9665 Gouin Blvd. W.)
  •         Institut universitaire en santé mentale Douglas (6875 LaSalle Blvd. on April 13, 14 and 15 avril from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

The sites are open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.”

What about you, residents of Peter-McGill, what has been your experience so far regarding the vaccination campaign? We’d love to hear from you whether you want to share positive or negative experiences with the COVID-19 vaccination.  Email benevolat@petermcgill.org