5 B.C. residents on what getting the COVID-19 vaccine means to them
As British Columbians reflect, they describe feelings of gratitude, relief and a 'superpower'
B.C. has started immunizing the general population, after months of vaccinating front-line workers and residents of long-term care homes.
For people in B.C. and across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an isolating experience — a full year without gatherings, connection, physical touch, travel and more.
Many people have lost love ones, livelihood and plans for the future. But with every vaccine that is administered in B.C., there is renewed hope that the end of 2021 will be much brighter than its beginning.
Here are five British Columbians describing what receiving the COVID-19 vaccine means to them.
Catherine Styles, 41, is a nurse who works at the B.C. Women's Hospital.
She said she feels immensely grateful to the scientists and researchers who worked on the vaccines against COVID-19.
"Taking it is like a social responsibility to keep my family, friends and colleagues safe," she said.
Although the maternity ward where she works in not a COVID hotspot, Styles says she felt an immense sense of relief that her workplace is becoming safer.
She also has elderly parents who live in the basement suite of her home. They immigrated from England a few years ago to spend more time with their four grandchildren, but the pandemic "pretty much defeated that."
Styles says she cannot wait to hug all of her loved ones.
Rick Bailey, 61, is with the Katzie First Nation.
He said receiving the vaccine means he'll be able to resume the family connections he's missed over the past year.
"It's finally real, we're getting it. It's not overwhelming, but I'm happy," he said
"One day soon I'll be able to have my family over for dinner. Maybe not Easter but hopefully Thanksgiving this fall, I hope. That's what I miss the most is family, getting together. That's been hard. We didn't get to have a Christmas dinner, or anything like that. [...] It's the beginning of the end of this pandemic."
Dr. Madhu Jawanda, 51, is a family physician in Surrey and a volunteer with the South Asian COVID Task Force.
She said receiving the vaccine represents a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.
"You just feel that immense, immense gratitude when that vaccine goes in — it's like having a superpower," she said.
"To me, the vaccine represents that all the collective efforts and sacrifices, the social distancing and mask wearing that all British Columbians and Canadians have done has really paid off. And it really gives me an appreciation for the science behind the vaccine and gratitude for everyone who has made these sacrifices. I really look forward to human connection and safety that we can all embrace together."
Wesley Tong, 21, is nursing student in Metro Vancouver.
He wears a mask even at home and has meals separately after he comes back from his student nursing rotations, because he doesn't want to risk giving COVID to his parents.
"I've hugged my mom maybe twice since this pandemic started," Tong said. "So this vaccine is such positive news. I left my appointment with a giant smile."
He said the vaccine is a step closer to normalcy, but he says he and other people who have been vaccinated cannot relax just yet.
"We still have to follow the public health orders, wear masks, keep physical distance... because it's not over just yet."
Torrie James lives on Barnston Island and is the manager of early childhood programming at the Katzie First Nation.
She said it was emotional to see elders, including her own father, be vaccinated after a year of isolation.
"It feels like it's a long time coming. Today was the first time I heard our council sing and drum in months and that's hard. Gathering is one of our biggest, most valued things that we do as a community, so it's definitely caused a lot of anxiety and stress for everyone," she said.
"This day is huge to me. I'm so excited and I would not have missed it for anything. I'm all on board for getting the vaccination."
With files from Angela Sterritt, Max Haberstroh and Tamara Baluja