Man, vaccines can be divisive, can’t they. I remember in the fall of last year when my dentist mentioned that she wasn’t sure if she was going to get a COVID vaccine. As you can imagine, this was not the most comforting thing to hear from a medical professional whose hands were in my open, mask-less mouth. At that point in the pandemic, I think a lot of people shared her mindset. I, however, did not.
I've been waiting to get a vaccine since they were first being developed. I mean this quite literally—I was researching to see if there were any Canadian trials that I could be a part of in order to get my dose earlier. Why? One of the main reasons was to return to a sense of security. I’m an anxious person by nature, so a global pandemic was obviously not the best thing for my mental health. The fact that I went home to the Greater Toronto Area, where case counts have been high for pretty much the whole pandemic, did not help. I basically had to force myself to not think about my odds of getting infected. Despite this repression, there was always still a low-level anxiety that followed me around.
When I returned to Halifax in the summer of 2020, things were a little bit different. At that point, there were zero COVID cases in Nova Scotia, so I actually felt relatively “free” from the threat of illness. It was bewildering to experience that kind of relief, and I knew that it would feel even better once I was vaccinated and could feel safer no matter where I was. I knew that vaccines don’t have a 100% success rate of stopping you from getting sick, but they were still my best chance at returning to a normal life.
The other big reason I wanted to get vaccinated was for the safety of others, particularly my parents. Both my dad and my mom have factors that make them higher-risk. Doctors have specifically told my mom that because her airways are small, she would be in trouble if she had to be intubated. So we had family discussions over the logistics of what would happen to me if they both got sick and died of COVID. Let me tell you, nothing makes you want a vaccine more than the thought of being orphaned at 21.
As a young and relatively healthy person, I’m less concerned about what would happen if I got COVID. However, I was (and am) very worried about my parents getting sick. My dad’s age meant that he was able to get his first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine in March, but my mom’s first dose took a lot longer. Honestly, I spent way more time figuring out how to get her an appointment in Ontario than I did booking mine in Halifax! But I know that being vaccinated myself will help to protect my parents as well.
Of course, there’s a difference between being pro-vaccine in theory and actually getting the shot in your arm. I was excited when I booked my first dose, but that feeling quickly turned into trepidation. How bad were the side effects going to be? Was it going to hurt a lot? Was I going to be like that person I saw on Twitter and sleep for 23 hours straight? These fears didn’t stop me from getting my shot, but they didn’t feel great, either.
To make myself feel better, I tried to think about the tangible benefits I would get from being vaccinated. Sure, there was the general sense of safety and public contribution, but there were also more concrete factors. I could visit home for the first time in seven months without needing to trap my roommates or spend thousands of dollars to self-isolate once I returned. I could feel safe trying on clothes in-store for the first time in a year and a half. I could even safely celebrate Christmas with my family in Ontario again! All of this was more than worth a little arm pain.
Right now, I only have one shot of the vaccine, but I’m hoping that I can get my second dose when I go back to visit my parents in Ontario later this month. If you’re hesitant about getting the vaccine, I would say that it’s 100% worth it. We all want the pandemic to be over, and the only way that will happen is if everybody does their part.
For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, visit the Government of Canada’s website.