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VIDEO: Barrie PSW makes history as first in region to receive vaccine

'It's just so important and it is utterly the beginning for us with this and we’ll be at this for months ... I am very moved,' says medical officer of health

At approximately 9:50 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 22, Lori Black entered the Simcoe County history books.

Black received her first of two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine immunization at the clinic at 29 Sperling Dr., run by the health unit and Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH). 

The Victoria Village personal support worker (PSW) took her mandatory 15 minutes of recovery time, common after an immunization dosage, and then met with the media. She said she was excited to get the vaccination and it was over rather quickly.

“I feel great. The flu shot hurts more than this did, I really didn’t feel this one at all,” said Black.

As a PSW for the last 16 years, Black volunteered for the first dosage to help protect those she comes in contact with.

“This is paramount as I work on different units and can expose myself to 100 residents, co-workers and family members within a week,” said Black. “So this is my way of fighting for them. They are the most vulnerable and this is the way to help protect them and everyone else within my work pace and the community.”

Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner said it was an emotional moment.

“I am moved. I am moved,” Gardner said, holding back tears. “It's just so important and it is utterly the beginning for us with this and we’ll be at this for months, but it is so good to have it begin. I am very moved.”

Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is in limited supply and the health unit is obliged to give the doses where it is kept. Gardner told BarrieToday that will change as the weeks and months progress, when the vaccine is more widely available. 

“We’re expecting other vaccines to be approved, the Moderna vaccine would be next, and we believe it can be moved from place to place. We could start to distribute it to long-term care facilities, retirement homes and hospitals to be given on site,” said Gardner. “Eventually there will be hundreds of thousands of doses to give and later in 2021 we would with primary care physicians and pharmacies to distribute the vaccine to the general population.”

Gardner again paused to gather his emotions before continuing.

“But, it begins here. This moment means so very much,” said Gardner.

Neither health unit or RVH personnel would disclose how many doses were being kept in the region, but president of RVH, Janice Skot said vaccinations will be dealt with promptly and efficiently. 

“We’re really not sharing the volume of vaccines received or the volume we’ll be giving daily,” said Skot. “We do want to assure the public that there is certainly no waste and we are maximizing the use of the doses we received.”

Skot wants the public to know vaccinations are, for now, by invitation only and available only to priority groups.

“It also is not the time to take our masks off and forget all the steps we’ve taken to protect ourselves and each other,” said Skot, urging people to continue to adhere to health guidelines.

Black received her dosage from the immunization program manager with the SMDHU, Deanna Thompson.

Thompson said it “was an honour to give the dosage,” and noted that the real work begins now.

“We’ll be working up to about 15 immunizers a day on site, so we’ll be working about every 10 to 15 minutes as we get comfortable with the new environment,” said Thompson.