P.E.I.'s first vaccinations bring 'change in momentum' in fight against COVID

There was a round of applause at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Wednesday as P.E.I. administered its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

3 people received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the QEH Wednesday

Dr. Chris Lantz was the first of three P.E.I. health-care workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday. (Ken Linton/CBC)

There was a round of applause and a few tears at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Wednesday as P.E.I. administered its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

There was also a huge grin on the face of P.E.I.'s chief public health officer, though you couldn't see it under her mask.

P.E.I. chief of nursing said she felt like dancing.

"It is a great day to celebrate," said Marion Dowling.

Three people received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to kick off the immunization campaign: Dr. Chris Lantz, house physician at multiple long-term care homes; Heather Arsenault, a resident care worker at Charlottetown's Garden Home; and Debbie Lawless, a registered nurse at Garden Home. 

Lantz said he felt as excited as a 10-year-old boy on Christmas morning.

"This is a change in momentum in this fight against the virus. We've been on the defensive for so long, that it feels good now to be on the offensive and not retreating against the virus. We're taking it to it now." 

Debbie Lawless, a registered nurse at a Charlottetown seniors' home, receives one of P.E.I's first doses of COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

They were the first of 1,950 initial doses in the first stage of P.E.I.'s vaccination campaign.

It was a proud moment for Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer, who has appeared before Islanders almost daily for the past nine months providing updates and guidance throughout the pandemic.

"I just couldn't take the grin off my face, you couldn't see it under the mask but I felt like putting my arms in the air and saying 'well done.'"

It's hidden under her mask, but there was a big smile on Dr. Heather Morrison's face Wednesday. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

Each person vaccinated will have to have a second dose 21 days later to make the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine fully effective. 

About 200 people are expected to get their first shot Wednesday, and vaccination clinics set up Thursday, Friday and Saturday are expected to be able to handle more.

Morrison said they hope to have the most vulnerable groups all vaccinated by summer.

'An honour'

Lawless said she became emotional when she was asked by Lantz to be one of the first to receive the vaccine, and that emotion carried over Wednesday after she received her dose. She said her mother was watching the live stream from a nursing home in Nova Scotia.

"It's quite an honour," she said. "I'm hoping everybody is this excited."

The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 arrived on P.E.I. Tuesday, with the immunization campaign starting Wednesday. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

Arsenault said the vaccine gives her hope that people will be able to eventually see their families.

"I have a son in Alberta and daughter in Montreal and I hope they can come home next summer."

Health Canada has said research suggests this vaccine is 95 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 beginning one week after the second dose.

An online poll conducted by Narrative Research and released Wednesday suggests Islanders are increasingly open to getting the vaccine.

The survey found 84 per cent of P.E.I. respondents were either "definitely" or "probably" planning to be vaccinated once COVID-19 immunization is widely available to the general public, compared to just 71 per cent answering the same way when the question was asked in September.

That will not be for some time; health-care workers and vulnerable populations such as seniors will have priority at first. 

P.E.I. has confirmed 89 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began more than nine months ago. There have been no deaths and no hospitalizations in the province.

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