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A light at the end of a long dark tunnel.

That’s how many Manitobans looked at news last month that the province would soon roll out its first COVID-19 vaccines. On Dec. 16, the province opened its first vaccination site, and since then, more than 13,000 Manitobans have received their first immunization shot against the virus.

2020 was a year like no other — it featured a once-in-a-century global pandemic, a summer of racial reckoning and street protests, a U.S. presidential impeachment, dramatic political violence south of the border, and an economic crash that left many struggling to keep their heads above water.

Since Premier Brian Pallister declared a state of emergency in the province on March 20, 2020, Manitobans have been through the ringer: businesses, jobs and loved ones have been lost; daily case totals have spiked, plateaued, then spiked again; and there have been multiple government-mandated lockdowns and untold personal struggles.

But the arrival of the vaccine brings hope for a return to normalcy — or, at least, something approximating it. In order to better understand how people are feeling at this historic moment, the Free Press spoke with four people who have received the vaccine.

Their answers below have been edited for clarity and length.

 

Name: Mary Cartlidge

Mary Cartlidge (Supplied)</p><p>

Mary Cartlidge (Supplied)

Age: 90

Occupation: Resident at Tudor House Personal Care Home

Location: Selkirk

What was your reaction to hearing you would get the vaccine?

I was very happy.

What was getting the vaccine like?

It was very simple. I didn’t really feel much other than a wee little tiny pinch. Everybody was courteous. Things ran well. They were in and gone in no time.

What was your life/job like before the vaccine?

We’ve been locked down. We had to stay in our rooms. We didn’t even go out for our meals. Meals were brought to us at our doors. My tray would be brought to my door. I would eat it. They would take the dirty dishes away. That is the most I would see of outsiders. It was difficult.

How will the vaccine change things for you?

I don’t think things will ever go back to normal. Not to what we had before. But it will be a better life hopefully and we will get to see our people.

What would you say to Manitobans who are nervous about getting the vaccine?

I would say go for it. There’s nothing to it. I went to bed last night, had a good night’s sleep, no worries at all. I would tell people to go for it and be safe rather than sorry.

What are you looking forward to most once the pandemic is over?

Getting outside. Everybody in the building has been wonderful. We’ve all coped with it really well, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re not outside. Lockdown is pretty tough.

 

Name: Kim Wiebe

Kim Wiebe (Supplied)</p><p>

Kim Wiebe (Supplied)

Age: 49

Occupation: Nurse at Tudor House Personal Care Home

Location: Selkirk

What was your reaction to hearing you would get the vaccine?

I was relieved. With all the uncertainty with the vaccine, with the rollout and the supply, I was relieved. I was also very happy to take this step to protect my residents and my community.

What was getting the vaccine like?

It was pretty simple. We had a form to fill out. A questionnaire. They made sure we felt fine before receiving it and then they gave us the vaccine.

What was your life/job like before the vaccine?

There was always a serious concern working with such an at-risk population. However, I’m very appreciative of my workplace. The management has done such an amazing job of protecting everyone. All the staff has gone above and beyond to protect our residents. I’m very lucky to work where I do.

How will the vaccine change things for you?

I feel better going into work having another layer of protection. I feel like I’m able to better serve my residents. I’m really happy I’ve got that extra layer of protection now.

What would you say to Manitobans who are nervous about getting the vaccine?

Go out there and educate yourself. The scientists were able to safely develop a vaccine. I trust the scientists.

What are you looking forward to most once the pandemic is over?

I’m looking forward to seeing the smiles on the faces of my residents. I’m looking forward to them seeing their families again.

 

Name: Adele Sweeny

Adele Sweeny (Supllied)</p>

Adele Sweeny (Supllied)

Age: 48

Occupation: Nurse with a First Nations Rapid Response Team

Location: Winnipeg

What was your reaction to hearing you would get the vaccine?

It was an option. I am part of the rapid response team, and because I travel to First Nations communities to do rapid testing, we met the eligibility criteria. It was my decision as a health-care provider to receive the vaccine. I was excited and nervous, based on hearing different side effects. I was excited but also anticipating what the side effects would be.

What was getting the vaccine like?

It was quick. We called the call centre. We were given an appointment at the Bannatyne site at the (University of Manitoba). It was easy. It was pretty organized. A group of us were booked. I had my consent form pre-filled out. They called us all up. We waited 15 minutes and we were out again. It was about a 30-minute process.

What was your life/job like before the vaccine?

I didn’t foresee a vaccine coming. When we did hear of the vaccine, I didn’t think it would be so quick. I’ve been to Peguis, to Little Grand Rapids, to Shamattawa. These were communities that had huge outbreaks. But I followed my PPE protocol. Once I hear the vaccine is coming and that I can have an appointment, it just makes you think back. We work in that environment without hesitation. It’s our duty to care. When I heard of the vaccine, I was excited to sign up for it.

How will the vaccine change things for you?

Our messaging is to maintain the fundamentals. That is our main messaging for our communities who receive the vaccine. I feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I feel relief that I have the vaccine. I don’t feel invincible and I know I need to maintain the fundamentals.

What would you say to Manitobans who are nervous about getting the vaccine?

Trust our health care. Trust the science.

What are you looking forward to most once the pandemic is over?

I want to look back on how we worked together and how our health care helped our First Nations people, and to get back to living.

 

Name: Muriel Sinclair

Muriel Sinclair (Supplied)</p><p>

Muriel Sinclair (Supplied)

Age: 53

Occupation: Nurse with a First Nations Rapid Response Team

Location: Winnipeg

What was your reaction to hearing you would get the vaccine?

I was scared. I had second thoughts about taking the vaccine. I didn’t really want it but then I got a call saying, ‘Make up your mind now. Do you want it or not?’ I read up about it and I thought, ‘OK, I need it to protect my family.’

What was getting the vaccine like?

I didn’t have to make an appointment. It was offered to me as part of the rapid response team. It didn’t hurt. It was just like a charley horse to the arm the next day. My arm was sore.

What was your life/job like before the vaccine?

It could get pretty scary but as long as you have the right PPE and you get the proper training it should be OK. I’ve been scared but I knew I was doing what I could to protect myself.

How will the vaccine change things for you?

I’ll still follow the same protocols, with handwashing and wearing a mask. But I do feel more protected knowing I’ve got the vaccine.

What would you say to Manitobans who are nervous about getting the vaccine?

Don’t be scared. I’ve had family that have asked me because they’re going for their vaccine. They’re asking me how it is. I tell them it’s just like any other vaccine, like the flu vaccine. It’s pretty much the same thing.

What are you looking forward to most once the pandemic is over?

Going on a trip. We’ve had to reschedule our trip to Disneyland twice already.

 

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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