Ottawa·First Person

I'm not an anti-vaxxer but: Ontarians share unique vaccine stories

One is fully vaccinated yet worried to vaccinate her child, another remains in limbo with the Sinopharm vaccine in Thailand — some Ontarians say they're not anti-vaxxers but a minority with legitimate concerns.

Though a minority, some say their concerns are legitimate

A vial of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine sits on a table. Some Ontarians share their unique vaccine stories. (CBC/Radio-Canada)

One is fully vaccinated yet worried to vaccinate their child, another remains in limbo with the Sinopharm vaccine in Thailand — some Ontarians say they're not anti-vaxxers but a minority with legitimate concerns.

Several people reached out to CBC News following its reporting on Ontario's vaccine passport, which is now in effect

Some shared concerns over pre-existing medical conditions, a lack of vaccine options, side effects, and mixed messaging from the government and health officials. Many shared frustration about being grouped in with anti-vaxxers, those who are vehemently opposed to vaccinations.

Health Canada's page provides information on vaccine safety and side effects.

CBC has edited these written submissions for style and clarity.

Lindsay Gibson from Cambridge, Ont.

I am not an anti-vaxxer but I am really struggling with the decision to vaccinate my daughter. She is turning 12 this month and has not been vaccinated yet. She has a mild heart condition and she has seen a cardiologist at McMaster Children's Hospital since she was born. My daughter is scared of the vaccine. 

My husband and I are both fully vaccinated, having received our first dose of Oxford-AstraZeneca on April 25 and second dose on July 15. We got our vaccines as soon as we were eligible. For us, getting the AstraZeneca was incredibly stressful, with all the news about blood clots and then the discontinuation of this vaccine in Canada. Because of that, I started reading more European news that talked about AstraZeneca.

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a private school. (Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images)

I read the BBC daily and the approach many European countries are taking to vaccinating children is different from Canada, and it worries me. I've seen headlines a month ago in the UK and Germany that said scientists are not backing COVID vaccines in children. The UK is now recommending one dose for kids 12 to 15.

We are scared. We have one child and our job is to keep her healthy and safe. We are not against giving her the vaccine at some point, but are asking for time — time to make an informed decision, time to overcome the fear, and time for our scientific community to really understand the vaccine's implications on children. My hope is that as a parent I will not be forced to give something to my child that I am not 100 per cent sure on.

Paul Dancer from Huntsville, Ont.

I'm not an anti-vaxxer but as someone living overseas, I am frustrated by how Canada is defining "fully vaccinated."

I am currently in Thailand. Those of us overseas followed our government's advice to get the first vaccine available to us, and now find ourselves considered unvaccinated when we return home to Canada.

I delayed my travel back home in order to get vaccinated recently. In August, I was able to access the Sinopharm vaccine, which is approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and in more than 60 countries. Sinopharm hasn't been approved by Health Canada yet. 

Paul Dancer receives his Sinopharm vaccine in Thailand. (Submitted by Paul Dancer)

I just had my second Sinopharm dose recently, and plan to come home soon. I'm not sure if I will be able to get an exemption with the Ontario vaccine passport system. Ontario had said that those who received WHO vaccines were considered fully vaccinated, but now it requires one or two doses of vaccines not authorized by Health Canada, followed by an mRNA booster, or three doses of a vaccine not yet approved by Health Canada.

I am concerned to follow up my Sinopharm vaccines with an mRNA vaccine. Some countries in Europe have started to accept WHO-approved vaccines for entry, and hopefully Canadian politicians will have the courage to follow.

Ashley Herfst from Sioux Lookout, Ont.

I'm not an anti-vaxxer but I waited for my second dose until now because of unanswered questions, and mixed communication from the government makes me feel nervous and like a guinea pig.

I'm 24 years old and I got my first Moderna dose when it became available in my area in April. 

My friend and I both went to get our second doses in late September. My friend, who is also 24, went a few days before me and the nurse suggested Moderna to her so that she wasn't mixing vaccines. When I went a few days later, a nurse recommended I get Pfizer and not Moderna, as it had risks of myocarditis for those 18 to 24 years old. Concerned over mixing vaccines, I left and called a Telehealth nurse to get a third opinion — who told me it doesn't matter which one I pick. Why aren't nurses on the same page? 

I'm not evil or conservative or resistant.- Ashley Herfst

There's changing narratives from health officials. Several times they told us  "don't pick and choose" vaccines. After it was first approved, AstraZeneca was soon not recommended for younger populations as it was associated with blood clot risk. About six months later, Moderna is now not recommended for those under 25. So was I really unreasonable and so awful for being selective?

I also have endometriosis. I have questions and concerns about long-term effects the vaccine may, or may not, have on my condition. Even in 2021, I don't think this country takes menstrual health or vaginal health seriously enough to address this concern. 

These are just a few of my vaccine-hesitant thoughts. I'm not evil or conservative or resistant. I'm a Carleton University bachelor of health sciences grad, and I'm thinking, reading, considering, observing — and I don't think that makes me a bad person.

(Herfst got her second Pfizer shot on Oct. 7 after writing this for CBC.)

Frank D'Angelo from Guelph, Ont.

I'm not an anti-vaxxer but I'm still not vaccinated at 75 years old.

Frank D'Angelo hopes to get a Johnson & Johnson Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, approved by Health Canada, but it's not offered in Ontario at the moment. (Submitted by Frank D'Angelo)

The reason for that is the single-shot Johnson & Johnson Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is not available here in Ontario.

My thinking is that the platform that Johnson & Johnson used for their COVID vaccine was tried and tested in the past with other vaccines — the same technology was used to develop Janssen's Ebola vaccine among others, and I'm more comfortable receiving this vaccine because of that.

I know a few people that were denied that option and settled for whatever was available — an mRNA shot. Now they regret it because they don't want to get a shot every several months as it appears the effectiveness of the mRNA vaccine is waning.

I have written several times to the politicians at the highest level to make the Janssen vaccine available to Canadians that want it. I received nothing positive from them. This pandemic will not go away any time soon, but to make it easier to contain it, the Janssen vaccine should be offered to those who want it.

Kevin Caswell from Ottawa

I'm not an anti-vaxxer but after going to the hospital following my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, I feel people should be able to make an informed choice about getting the vaccine.

Within a couple of minutes of getting the shot, I developed a headache that turned into a migraine. Since I was in the middle of online classes during summer school, I stayed at home attempting to suppress the migraine symptoms before and after class with over-the-counter medications. Every day, I woke up and felt my head was about to explode. After about a month of attempting to toughen it out, I decided to go to a hospital's emergency room where doctors gave me medication through IV fluids and it helped with my migraines. 

Feeling better, I was left with the choice of whether or not I should get a second shot. Carleton University mandated vaccines in order to attend classes, but I also did not want to go through negative side effects again.

There were also increased discussions around the side effects of the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines for young people, but the Pfizer vaccine was a definite no for me. 

Eventually, I got my next shot of Moderna because I wanted to go to school in person.

After my experience, I think people should get the time and chance to make informed choices about which vaccine to get because you may experience side effects.

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