Getting COVID-19 vaccine an 'awesome' experience, says Regina ICU nurse

Whitney Walker-Ross is an intensive care unit nurse in Regina who got the vaccine on Thursday. She said lining up with other health-care workers to get the shot was “like a treat.”

Saskatchewan Health Authority training more ICU nurses in preparation for demand

ICU nurse Whitney Walker-Ross was one of the first people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Saskatchewan. (CBC)

One of the first people to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Saskatchewan says the experience was "awesome," and lining up with other health-care workers to get the shot was "like a treat."

Whitney Walker-Ross, an intensive care unit nurse in Regina, got the vaccine on Thursday.

"Just watching the nurse draw up the medicine in the vial was just like, wow — this is actually happening," Walker-Ross said.

The federal government shipped out Canada's first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week. Saskatchewan's shipment arrived Tuesday afternoon, and the first immunizations were given at the Regina General Hospital that evening.

The first people eligible to be vaccinated in Saskatchewan are health-care workers who work directly with COVID-19 patients at Regina General and Pasqua hospitals, as well as staff at testing and assessment centres.

Walker-Ross said she was ready to get the vaccine as soon as she sat down, but first had to review the forms that informed her of the risks.

"It doesn't hurt, and I'm not a fan of needles at all," she said. "It was so fast. And my first words were, 'That was it?'"

She and the other health-care workers who got vaccinated were required to wait 15 minutes after getting the shot, in case they had an adverse reaction.

Everyone in the waiting room was "feeling pretty good and happy," Walker-Ross said.

"To me, it's a little bit reassuring to know that things can get better," she said. "Hopefully we can get this vaccine rolling for everyone else in the city."

More ICU nurses being trained

The Saskatchewan Health Authority is training more ICU nurses to help with COVID-19 cases. 

The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses says it's aware the training is happening and SUN members have not voiced any concerns.

Saskatchewan NDP health critic Vicki Mowat says it's a move in the right direction, because intensive care units have already been at or near capacity.

"It's easy enough to create a hospital bed in a specific space but those beds can't exist if the staff don't exist," she said. "So we need to make sure that the staffing is there."

Mowat noted that the NDP has been calling on the provincial Sask. Party government to hire more health-care workers for months, and that still hasn't happened yet.

"Instead, what we're hearing is that people are already burning out," she said. "We're still talking about the same people at the end of the day, and there are only so many pools of individuals that we can draw from."

While she said there are still questions about how the government will be rolling out the vaccine, she said it's encouraging to see it becoming available.

"We know so many people have made so many sacrifices for the past nine months, and we're not out of the woods yet," she said. "It's good to see it rolling out."


Ashleigh Mattern is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon and CBC Saskatchewan.

With files from Sam Maciag