As I've written before, initial vaccinations here focused on health care workers and long-term care home workers and residents. Rollout to the general population didn't begin until mid-March, although some regions began offering shots (Pfizer & Moderna) to the 80+ population on March 1st. I was fully expecting we would have to wait until summer for our turns (60 & 64).
But slowly, younger groups began to be added to the eligible population... first the 75 and up group, then 70 and up. By mid-March, a couple of pilot projects began, offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 60-64 (i.e., dh & me -- one advantage of getting older??) -- one through pharmacies in certain regions, and one through family physicians' offices in certain regions -- none of the regions being the one where dh & I live, of course...!
Then last week, things began to happen more quickly. (I think it's been a combination of uptake in some groups not being as high as expected -- because of some poor planning on the province's part... but that's another story...! -- plus some vaccines getting closer to their expiry dates = not wanting them to go to waste -- plus the supply is increasing as more vaccines are being shipped.)
First of all, they lowered the eligible age at the regional centres to 65. Then on Thursday, a friend posted on Facebook that they were lowering the age for the AstraZeneca pharmacy program in her region to 55+. I checked, and learned that the program was being expanded to more pharmacies right across the province, including our region. I'd already pre-registered us for the waiting list for one local pharmacy chain (Shoppers Drug Mart). Of course, neither of the two Shoppers closest to us is participating in the program yet...! But when I checked on Thursday, there were a Rexall, Costco and two Walmarts nearby listed among the pharmacies participating. I signed us up for the waiting lists for Rexall and Costco. Walmart indicated there were no appointments available, but I continued to check every morning to see if anything had changed. (Really efficient...)
Saturday night we went to BIL's house to drop off some Easter goodies for Little Great-Nephew. I went to retrieve my cellphone from my purse to take a few photos -- and lo and behold, I had both a text and an email from Rexall: "It's time to book your covid-19 vaccination!" It said the link was good for 24 hours and "if there are no spots available, please contact the pharmacy directly."
I tried the link but didn't get very far before I got a message that no spots were available (already?!) and to please contact the pharmacy directly. I called and of course they had closed at 6 (!) but I left a voice mail message.
Sunday morning, dh got the same text and email messages from Rexall... and when he tried the link, he was able to get into the system and book an appointment for this morning at 9! I decided to try my link again, but got a message that it had expired because of "overwhelming demand." So I called the pharmacy again. They were open (even though it was Easter Sunday), and I explained what had happened and that my husband had just managed to book an appointment for 9 a.m. Monday. She said, "9:10 is booked -- I can offer you 9:20, but just come in at the same time as your husband and we'll do you together."
I said, "That's fabulous, thank you!!" After I hung up, dh & I started giggling, and then jumping up & down gleefully. (And then right after that, we both got messages from Costco, inviting us to book our vaccinations with them! -- it never rains but it pours, right?? Feast or famine...)
Dh called BIL to tell him we were booked, and then a while later, BIL called back to say they'd both managed to get appointments at the same pharmacy for Tuesday afternoon (tomorrow). (BIL is 58 & SIL is 56.) So we'll be right in sync with each other vaccine-wise -- even better! :)
We set the alarm clock and got up early this morning, arriving well before the pharmacy opened at 9. We were in & out of there in under half an hour, including wait times afterwards. The pharmacist said the phone has been ringing off the hook, and that they'd had very little notice that they would be getting this shipment.
I'll admit if I'd had my druthers, I would have preferred the Pfizer or Moderna (or the Johnson & Johnson "one & done" shot, which won't be available in Canada until at least the end of April). You've probably heard that there have been a few issues with the AstraZeneca: which age groups it's best suited for, and some blood clotting issues in a very small number of cases. (My mother was NOT happy when I told her we were getting it! -- she & my dad have been dragging their feet; we got our first shots before they did! She says she's holding out for the Johnson & Johnson shot.)(The bitter childless part of me wonders whether they'd be in more of a hurry to get their shots if there were grandchildren they were anxious to see?? -- and not just little old me?? ) :(
But as they say, the best vaccine is the first one you can get in your arm -- and we figured the odds of contracting covid right now (with all the more contagious variants floating around & case levels here skyrocketing again) far outweigh the likelihood of any adverse effects. So far (a few hours later), we're both feeling fine -- maybe a little fatigued/spacey (but that could also be because we got up earlier than usual, lol).
The situation right now is not good here in Ontario: we've been averaging 3,000 new cases a day for the last several days, and hospital ICUs are full. It will be two weeks before we get any real protection from this first shot, and we won't be fully protected until our second shot, which won't be for another four months = mid-July (unless the government changes the vaccine schedules). Even then, masks, handwashing and social distancing are strongly recommended for the foreseeable future.
But!! FINALLY, some progress! some hope for a return to some semblance of normalcy!!
Have you been vaccinated yet?
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here.