When some people show up for their COVID-19 vaccines, they break down and cry. Some say it represents their chance to hug their grandchildren again. Others share their dreams of travelling. “It feels like I’m giving them a gift,” Nurse Claire Larose says about delivering the shot.
Ms. Larose is one of hundreds of staffers and recruits taking part in one of the most momentous events in healthcare history, the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine. After a year of confinement and stress due to the pandemic, the workers say they feel like they are delivering a jab of hope with every dose.
“You come to realize that this is no banal gesture. It’s very symbolic. People are so happy to be here, they cry for joy,” Ms. Larose says.
At Décarie Square, one of our CIUSSS’s vaccination sites, several healthcare workers said they have witnessed some heart-rending moments since the public campaign began on March 1. Some people in their 80s and 90s told them their trip to the vaccination site was the first time they had left their homes since the pandemic began last year.
At times, clients share confidences as they sit side by side during vaccination. One woman said she still regretted missing her granddaughter’s birthday gathering last summer. Others admit they are lonely.
“One woman cried and said how it was emotional for her to be here, because it was her first time leaving her house,” recalls Nurse Marlen Laverde. Like Ms. Larose, Ms. Laverde came out of retirement as a nurse clinician in our CIUSSS to pitch in during the vaccination campaign. “To a lot of people, the vaccine represents a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Our CIUSSS’s Human Resources team has recruited more than 400 people as injectors and vaccinators (vaccinators’ tasks also include doing evaluations of clients), along with hundreds more people in roles such as greeters. About 300 current CIUSSS employees are also contributing their time to the vaccination effort, seeing it as their small way to help hasten the end of the pandemic.
Nurse Clinician Maryam Ghahramani, Assistant Head Nurse at the Saint Margaret Residential Centre, decided to use her two weeks of vacation to work at the Décarie Square vaccination site.
“This is my vacation and I’m enjoying it,” Ms. Ghahramani said between administering doses. “I feel we have a mission to help. People call healthcare workers superheroes, and we have to pay back that trust. It’s about our families, our neighbours, our community, and doing what we so we can all be free and safe again.”
Gabrielle Gaudreault-Malépart, a physiotherapist at the Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre, volunteered to administer vaccines on her days off. “I wanted to see what was happening on the ground, not just watch it on the news,” she said. “I feel I’m contributing to a collective effort. As healthcare workers, what motivates us is the desire to help.” People’s positive reactions are a bonus, she says. “They say they’ve been waiting for this day for so long.”
Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, President and CEO of CIUSSS West-Central Montreal, said the vaccination campaign has “brought out the best in our people.”
“It’s very touching to see them coming out to volunteer their time,” Dr. Rosenberg said, as he toured the Décarie Square site one morning in mid-March. “This is a textbook example of the self-sacrifice of staff, who are coming in on days off, or out of retirement, and doing what they can, so that people get what they deserve. “They’re saying, ‘We’re not here for us; we’re here for the citizens of our territory.’”