COVID-19 Vaccination Series: It all started with a visit to the clicsante.ca site – By Philippe Finès

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Wednesday April 28th, 2021

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Vaccination for COVID-19 in Peter-McGill.

Many signs announce that better days are arriving.  Days get longer and hotter, snow leaves for good, … and vaccination has started.  I recently had the opportunity to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and felt privileged for having had such an enriching and interesting experience.

It all started with a visit to the clicsante.ca site.  Accessing this site is quite simple.  You just need to select “COVID-19 Vaccine”, enter your postal code and press “Search”.  The application then gives the list of all health institutions close to your residence, starting from the closest one.  You choose the institution (hospital, CLSC, pharmacy…) then the date and time available that fits your needs. You then answer a few questions, and voilà!, here you go: reservation is made.  You then receive confirmation through your cell phone and email.  Two days before the vaccination date, you will receive another confirmation.

My appointment is on April 20, at 5:30 pm, at the Montreal General Hospital.  Slightly in advance, I wait in the waiting line where everyone follows scrupulously the marks on the floor – 6 feet apart. All is calm. People wait patiently and get forward regularly from one mark to the next. I then arrive at the counter where the employee asks me to show him my Medicare card.  All is fine.  I will receive the Pfizer vaccine. A little more waiting, and it is now my turn! The nurse asks me whether I am right-handed or left-handed.  I answer that I am right-handed, so she will vaccinate me on the left shoulder.  I may indeed have some discomfort on the vaccinated arm. I hardly felt the needle! The sting is much less painful than, say for a blood sample or a blood donation. That’s it, it’s done.  I just need to wait 15 minutes in the same room to make sure that there is no adverse effect. I left after fifteen minutes, satisfied and reassured. At all, the whole operation did not last more than half an hour!

I am writing this the day after.  I have nothing to declare on my health status: no pain, no discomfort. I could have had some. The list of discomforts is displayed in the waiting room, and we have plenty of time to read it… In general, there can be pain in the arm, fatigue, headache, … rather benign discomforts compared to the benefits one gets from being vaccinated. No, the vaccine does not erase the disease: if you get the virus, the vaccine will make it comparable to a flu.  Now, when you think of the hardship the virus did in 2020, you may think that by comparison a flu is much less serious… And you may be grateful to have more than one vaccine available to oppose this virus.  During the fifteen minutes I waited after I got my vaccine, I observed that calm was present everywhere, not only in the waiting line.  It felt like a quiet relief. No euphoria, no intense emotion, just the certainty that at last… perhaps… after all this sorrow, all this pain, we will all be able to breathe again, to smile again.

The end of COVID-19 will happen, for sure. I now cite some words from Karl Taro Greenfield (from ‘‘When SARS Ended’’, New Yorker, 17 avril, read in the Lapham’s Quarterly, Vol. XIII, No, 3, 2020, pages 146-147) which refer to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) that was present between 2003 and 2004.

“The end of SARS was accompanied by a curious combination of hope and fatigue. We had been living indoors, secluded, behind masks, for so long that at some point it had become normal – even boring.  I can remember the first time I saw someone wearing a mask, at the start of the outbreak: I had been taking my three-year-old daughter for a walk around Victoria Park, and she had pointed him out. But I can’t remember when I first saw someone without one, or when I myself decided to leave mine at home.  I suppose that one day I must have woken up, got dressed, reached for the N95 as usual, and then thought, Is this really necessary? The government didn’t tell us to go out – and, in any case, it couldn’t have legislated away our fear.  Instead, some internal calculation seemed to show that the benefits of living our lives newly outweighed the risks of catching SARS. I know as I write this that it sounds ridiculous, but it felt as though the virus itself had grown weaker – as though it had been wounded. It seemed like a miasma had lifted from the city. My family members came back from their exile.  Restaurants reopened. […] There were magical spring days when the sun flooded Victoria Harbor. We talked, in person.”

It is certainly not advisable to directly apply this text from Karl Taro Greenfield to today’s situation.  SARS is more dangerous than COVID-19, but COVID-19 is worldwide, has several waves and several variants; however, vaccines have been developed for this virus. And as of today, coronavirus is far from growing weaker!  Nevertheless, this text gives us hope that, yes, soon, it will be over.  In the meantime, and to hasten the end, let’s all get vaccinated. And let’s follow all the recommendations from Public Health.

Philippe Finès