Saskatchewan

Sask. Métis leader says he overcame his vaccine hesitancy after friend contracted COVID-19

Leonard Montgrand, the minister for post-secondary education with the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan, says was hesitant to get his shots, until his best friend got COVID-19.

Métis Nation-Sask. minister Leonard Montgrand now encourages others to get shots

Metis-Nation northern representative Leonard Montgrand says he was hesitant to get his COVID-19 vaccination, but his turning point came during the summer when his best friend, who was unvaccinated, contracted the illness. (Submitted by Rick Klein)

An official with the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan is now advocating for others to get their COVID-19 vaccination, after his own initial hesitancy to get the shots.

Leonard Montgrand, the minister for post-secondary education with the MN-S, says he put off getting the vaccine because he was scared to do so himself.

Montgrand, who is a regional director with the Metis Nation in northwestern Saskatchewan and is also the executive director for the La Loche Friendship Centre, says he has struggled with a fear of vaccines his entire life. 

"I never had a flu shot, in all my 60 years of being on this planet. And I always believed I was strong enough to beat it," he said.

The turning point came during the summer when his best friend, who was unvaccinated, called complaining about how sick he felt.

His friend contracted COVID-19 and has now been in intensive care for 90 days. Montgrand remembers his friend calling from the ICU.

"He said, 'Leonard, go get your vaccination. This is no friggin' joke.' He said, 'I can barely breathe and I won't be able to talk to you anymore.…' And I could see the fear in his eyes," Montgrand said.

"It's gonna be a long haul for him," Montgrand said in a Wednesday interview with CBC Radio's The Morning Edition.

"And after I'd seen all that, I went to the exhibition centre [vaccination site in Saskatoon] and I drove around the parking lot and finally mustered up enough courage, and got my wife and she had her first shot," he said. 

"She said, you know, 'Come on, let's go inside and get our vaccination. Let's do it for [your friend].'"

One Saskatchewan Metis leader wants the vaccine hesitant to learn from his experience. He too was scared of getting the COVID-19 vaccine and thought it'd make him sick, but that all changed after a phone call. 8:42

Montgrand says 15 minutes after getting the vaccine, and for three days following, he expected something bad to happen. But all he got was a sore arm.

He says he's now hoping he can convince people like him who were hesitant to get their shots. He says he understands the hesitation, but wants people to think about their safety.

"COVID is a killer, and here they think you're putting something in your arm that's gonna kill you. It's not. It's gonna protect you. It's gonna save you.

"It's gonna make your life at least not a living hell anymore, not worrying about it."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adeoluwa Atayero is a reporter for CBC News based in Saskatchewan. Before moving to Canada, Atayero worked as reporter, content manager and communications consultant in Lagos, Nigeria. He holds a masters in journalism from the University of Regina. @theadeatayero

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