The COVID-19 vaccinators: How it feels to administer 200,000 doses

A team of volunteers shared their experiences administering 200,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Horticulture building at Lansdowne as the clinic closed this week.

Several community clinics closed in Ottawa this week, including one at Lansdowne

Angela Huizing became the 200,000th person vaccinated on the final day at the Lansdowne community clinic. The clinic shuttered Tuesday evening. (Lucas Budic)

On Tuesday, staff at the vaccine clinic in the Horticulture building at Lansdowne stopped to mark a milestone — COVID-19 vaccine dose number 200,000 was given to Ottawa resident Angela Huizing.

This community clinic, organized by The Ottawa Hospital, was one of six to close this week as the city starts ramping down its mass vaccination program.

The team of vaccinators included hospital staff, retired and semi-retired health-care workers, plus other volunteers.

They said Tuesday was an emotional, "bittersweet" day after some seven months in operation, where these workers became part of an historic public health initiative never before undertaken at that scale.

Some of the team members shared their memories with CBC. 

Karen Wallace-McFaul

‘It’s been wonderful’: Retired nurse reflects on going back to work at vaccination clinic

2 months ago
Karen Wallace-McFaul, a retired nurse, says coming back to work at a vaccination clinic has “filled a void” by allowing her to help with the fight against COVID-19. 1:04

Retired nurse Karen Wallace-McFaul said being a vaccinator brought her back to what she loves — taking care of people.

She administered so many vaccines she can't count, but some people she will never forget.

That includes a 13-year-old who came in for her shot on the second-to-last day before the clinic closed, and presented her with a gift. 

"I opened the box, and I was so touched it brought tears to my eyes," said Wallace-McFaul.

Inside was a pin featuring two hands holding a heart.

Wearing the pin on her final day at the clinic, she explained, "Even more touching was the message in the box thanking me for my part in helping with the COVID situation."

Retired nurse Karen Wallace-McFaul shows the pin she received as a gift from a 13-year-old who came in for her vaccine on Monday. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Dr Ross Wilkinson

‘It’s been nice to be able to help’

2 months ago
Ross Wilkinson, a semi-retired orthopedic surgeon, says he jumped at the chance to work at a vaccination clinic, wanting to do his part to help vaccinate Ottawa residents against COVID-19. 0:40

Dr. Ross Wilkinson is a semi-retired orthopedic surgeon who now works at the Carleton Sport Medicine Clinic.

He said he decided it was important to make a contribution to his community, particularly with sports sidelined during the pandemic.

"It's been very positive. It's been nice to be able to help," he said.

What he remembers most is how often he had to reach for the "Kleenex box." 

"The number of people that have been so happy to get their second dose that they've actually started crying ... it's quite exceptional," he said. 

Orthopedic surgeons are typically known for their stoicism, but he conceded he found himself sometimes getting a little emotional himself.  

Susan Madden 

Susan Madden, right, enjoyed spending time calming children as they received the vaccine. (CBC)

Retired nurse Susan Madden said she has been impressed to see how many people in the community have been eager to roll-up their sleeve to get vaccinated, making the unprecedented mission more rewarding. 

She says her interactions with young people in particular will stay with her.

"I've had rewarding conversations with 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds," she said.

"They're kind of frightened. They get their vaccine, and feel, 'Oh, this is done and life is going to go on and I'm going to get back to school.' They get it."

Dr. Lorne Wiesenfeld

Dr. Lorne Wiesenfeld called the last day of administering vaccines 'bittersweet.' (CBC)

Dr. Lorne Wiesenfeld, who works in the emergency department at The Ottawa Hospital, said the group at Lansdowne became very close over the months.

"I'm working with a great team from all different specialties, nurses from all different practices, volunteers, the clerks. We've made a lot of new friends here and it's sad in that regard," he said. 

"But on the other hand, maybe this is a sign that we're reaching our numbers and maybe we're no longer needed ... and that's great."


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