Documenting my COVID jabs and the path to so called normalcy.

Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

My first experience as an Indigenous person getting the shot was an interesting one. I didn’t hear much from the government. Which is as usual not a big surprise when it comes to accessibility issues and Indigenous people, on or off the reserve.

I had to seek out a lot of the information independently, and it wasn’t really broadcast in media publications either. I knew that elders were receiving their vaccinations, and had no clue when or if anyone else would be given this basic human right. I did a lot of searching online, and no where did it really indicate whether anyone younger would be eligible for their vaccine.

It wasn’t until I was connected with my local friendship center did I get some information. They were of course overwhelmed with an influx of inquiries and those interested in acquiring vaccines as soon as possible. Which again, means that a small facility becomes the primary source to a large population and public healthcare. I had to ask numerous questions online, and at first not much was made clear. It seemed like there was a wall built in trying to figure out whether I would be applicable. I was also trying to respect my elder community by not trying to interfere with what was needed for them first.

It felt like the government was trying to ignore the Indigenous community. I reached out to my local MP representative, and he also had little information pertaining to Indigenous health despite the fact that I heard that Indigenous people would be included in prioritized vaccinations. Instead he passed me off to the local public healthcare system. It felt very dismissive for the government to say that he really had no clue what was happening in the community he represented.

My COVID19 sticker.

Ultimately, I found applications online for the COVID-19 vaccine at my local friendship center. It still didn’t say who could apply, other than being Indigenous. So I filled out an application noting my age group and why I was trying to access the vaccine. Which predominately had to do with my Parents who are seniors, and my Dad who I had lived with, and who suffers from COPD and heart failure. I was glad it allowed me to note that within my file application in the hope it would prioritize my ability to access the vaccine. Within a couple weeks I received a phone call to setup my first vaccine appointment. It was both a relief, and a battle in the hope to be sure that the rest of my family would perhaps get the opportunity to access this as well in the future.

I managed to go to my appointment at the local friendship center a long side many others in the community. It was a really welcoming and inclusive environment where they were smudging all that attended. I was definitely feeling nervous as there was quite a long lineup to get to the nurses stations. I was by myself, and so the waiting by far was the hardest part.

Eventually made it to my nurse who made the experience welcoming and honest. She also explained how it would take upwards of four months for us to inevitably make our second shot which I was very surprised to learn. I also learned I’d be receiving the Pfizer vaccine, and what to expect in regard to side effects. I am not one to be afraid of needles so it was easy and done with in seconds. The hardest part was my inpatients sitting for 15 minutes at the end. It felt like it was taking too long and I could feel myself growing anxious. I distracted myself with phone time, and thinking about my Mom who waited for me in the parking lot. In the end I did not experience much in regard to side effects except some minor aches and pains.

The second shot came a month or so later. I was so happy to hear I wouldn’t have to wait four months for the second, which I admit even I was concerned about. Even though I was told the first dose can protect you up to 80%. This time I received a call from Public Health and they informed me they were booking appointments for one day only on behalf of the Indigenous community. I took my chance, and a late afternoon appointment.

The second shot was being held further away. I could see how transportation issues could be a problem for those seeking their shots. Another problem in regard to accessibility issues. I am lucky enough to have a strong family support system who helped me get to and from my appointments, where as others may not have had the time or the proper resources to make it there.

The second shot was held in a much larger venue, but getting registered felt like a easier process. Once past the lineup I was introduced to my 2nd nurse Peggy who asked me similar questions as the last time. She also asked me how I’d like my shot, as in if she would prefer she explain what she’s doing while she did it, or to just flat out do it. I told her I’m not afraid of needles, but prefer to talk or have a conversation through the process as silence tends to make me a bit anxious. She administered the vaccine right away, and it felt less painful than the first. She also forewarned the symptoms could be worse with the second.

I am now almost finished my first week with the 2nd shot. I experienced more symptoms as forewarned hours after the shot, the next day my arm was sore and I experienced body aches and lethargy. I stayed in bed and found I didn’t have much of an appetite. But the feelings were mild and completely survivable. As the days went on I realized the side effects of this vaccine were a little more long term. I thought by the end of the first day I’d be feeling fine, but unfortunately into my 2nd and 3rd day I was feeling the same. The lethargy would come in waves, and I had lost my appetite big time. I was still able to get up and do some work, but it hit differently. By the fourth day I thought I was out of it but then in the middle of the night after taking it a bit too easy I felt sick with stomach flu like symptoms. Intense nausea. I did not break into a fever though, and eventually it subsided. Since then 5th day on I’ve felt good as new.

There is no doubt that the vaccine is worth the side effects. I believe it is the least selfless contribution to society you can make currently. My family is still trying to get full vaccinated, and there are still many stumbling blocks in the way for Canadians to get ahold of their vaccine. All I can ask is for people to not hesitate. I am the lucky few who are now on their way to a better future. I will still wear my mask, I will still social distance and follow effective protocols. I also am not convinced we are in anyway out of the woods yet. I do believe though the sooner we are all vaccinated the better.