Why I finally got vaccinated: In emerging clinics, undecided say why they decided to roll up their sleeves

An occasional series on how to help the vaccine waver, save lives, and ultimately overcome the pandemic..

“Pfizer, Moderna, shots, first shot, second shot!” a public health worker calls out to the passing crowd, sounding like a gaming operator at the Ex, but actually trying to lure commuters trudging through the Warden tube station.

The prizes are not stuffed animals. Human lives are saved, possibly from the constant trickle of people stopping, looking, and then rolling up their sleeves, each blow pushing Toronto toward vaccination coverage that could help end the pandemic.

The clinic is part of #DaysofVaxtion, a blitz of pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinics across Toronto, running Thursday through Sunday, in subway stations, shopping malls, schools, parks, and even a bathhouse.

Nearly 80 percent of eligible Toronto residents are fully vaccinated. The city is trying to bring that figure to 90 percent to defuse the fourth pandemic wave that is mainly preying on unvaccinated people who keep the virus circulating.

Star reporters visited several of the clinics asking people who received their first injection why they waited and what motivated them to finally get vaccinated. Immunization mandates took on great importance, with requirements for work, gym visits and more.

For others, it was peer and family pressure, and the convenience of protecting themselves without having to make a special trip to an independent city clinic.

Several admitted postponing vaccination for “fear” of the vaccine’s side effects, which experts say pose a much lower risk to people than COVID-19 and its Delta variant.

One urged others who resist to put aside their fears and join the protégés, saying, “It is very easy.”

Adam Kirstein received his first dose of vaccine at the Islington station on Friday so he could travel this winter.

Adam kirstein

“I’m excited – I was definitely one of the people they tried to target for these pop-up clinics.

“I did not have the means to review the reservation system. Some people are really good at documents and web page navigation, and I wouldn’t say I’m an expert at that. The bureaucratic systems, filling in forms, looking for the closest clinic did not make it as easy as getting here to the metro station.

“I’m a bit of a snow fanatic and I want to travel this winter, and I thought Pfizer would take me to every country. One of the questions with air travel is whether certain countries will allow you to enter if it is a mixed dose, so I wanted to make sure I can get two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

“But I also wanted to know more about the research, what people found most effective and what might have the most powerful coverage for me.”

Alessio Freire was vaccinated at Warden station on Thursday because his family continued to pressure him.

Alessio Freire

“All my loved ones, all my friends, all my family were vaccinated. Everyone I care about is doing it, so I thought I could do it too.

“Honestly, I was afraid of the vaccine, I didn’t want to spoil anything with my health …

“My union said they don’t force us to make it work, nobody forces me. But I said ‘You know what? Everyone I love and care about has it, so I’ll join them. ‘

“I saw a clinic here before and I thought, ‘Hmm, it’s quite convenient, I’m on my way home.’ I didn’t get it then, but family members kept pushing me, ‘Get the vaccine, get the vaccine, you’re the only one who hasn’t.’

“So I looked online and saw they were doing it here again, so I was like, ‘Fuck it, I’m going to get vaccinated.’

Surjan Sandhu received his COVID-19 vaccine at Warden subway station on Thursday so he could continue going to the gym.

Surjan Sandhu

“My friend and I want to go to the gym and vaccination is mandatory for us. They are forcing us to get vaccinated; we have to show the paper that says we have been vaccinated.

“I waited because I wasn’t really worried about having COVID. I didn’t think the risk was that serious. I didn’t think I was going to get sick.

“My friends and my family are not in Toronto, they are all at home. The only reason I got vaccinated is that I don’t want to stop going to the gym.

“Now that I am vaccinated, I can go. It is the people’s choice whether or not to get vaccinated, it is up to them. But if the gym hadn’t forced me, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity. “

Pauline Baldwin received her first COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic inside the Warden metro station on Thursday due to vaccine passports.

Pauline baldwin

“I took the vaccine for the passports, you will need it to go anywhere.

“I hadn’t received it before because I was hearing all the negative reactions to the vaccine, I was scared because I heard all the bad things about it. I’m still not afraid of COVID.

“What made me change my mind was the conversation about the need for a vaccination passport to go anywhere. I definitely need it for work – I work as a housekeeper and a client turned me down the other day because I wasn’t vaccinated. That’s when I said ‘Forget it, I’ll take it’.

“So I passed by and saw the clinic in the metro station here and they injected me. I receive my second dose in 21 days.

“I feel good.”

Aaron Camp received his first vaccination under the trees at Trinity Bellwoods on Friday due to a court order for visitation rights for his daughter.

Aaron Camp

“The court ordered me to do it. It is part of my visitation agreement with my daughter. I had to get the vaccine to be able to see it. My ex asked and the courts agreed. I didn’t like that, because it took away my choice.

“I’m not anti-vax, but I wanted to wait a bit longer. I could fight that, but it would take me another year to see my daughter, so it was a pretty simple choice.

“It was difficult (to get vaccinated). That’s why I came here, this is perfect. I didn’t want the Moderna (vaccine) and they gave me a choice. I wanted to go for Pfizer …

“I also have an anxiety disorder, so for me, there was no way I would go to a big convention center to get vaccinated. This is nice, it’s open, there aren’t a lot of people scared. “

Jennifer Big Canoe received her first vaccination at Trinity Bellwoods on Friday after becoming seriously ill with something other than COVID-19.

Jennifer Big Canoe

“I got sick. I was scared. I went to the hospital. They let me go, they said I was dehydrated. But I was sick, sick.

“My head hurt, I was vomiting, I couldn’t eat, I was weak. He was crawling on the floor, in the bathtub shaking, sweating, crying. When I coughed, I felt my brain pop out.

“It wasn’t COVID, but after that, I decided I had to get vaccinated, because I didn’t want to get sick again.”

Matt wong

“I got an email that (drum and bass musician) Andy C is coming to Toronto on the 30th and I have to get tested for (COVID) because I can’t get the second take on time.

“I don’t even like going indoors anymore. I feel like the fun has been cut in half because of the skins. So, I do this for concerts. I can not wait.

“I’m a programmer, so the jobs never forced me to (get vaccinated). I don’t have anyone else forcing me to do it. I was not worried about getting the virus. I never stopped meeting people, over and over again.

“Getting sick never occurred to me. I haven’t gotten sick, I don’t know how long. I never get a flu shot. I don’t like getting needles either, maybe that’s what prevented me from getting vaccinated ”.

12-year-old Michael Castro got his first shot at Trinity Bellwoods so he could go to his boxing class.  Michael was brought to the clinic by his father, Eric.

Eric Castro

“We decided to get vaccinated because of the vaccine passport.

“My son (Michael) plays sports, he’s a boxer, so in order to go to gyms he needs to get vaccinated. He’s already staying home and not going to school, so we really didn’t want him to not participate in their programs.

“I really didn’t expect to get the vaccine for the children. I was undecided for a while. I have heard about side effects on the news. They say it is a small possibility, but it is still a possibility, you don’t know. He didn’t want anything to happen to him.

But things are changing now. If you want to go somewhere, you need to get vaccinated. ”

David Rider is the head of Star’s City Council office and a reporter covering city hall and municipal politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider
Jenna Moon is a breaking news reporter for the Star and is based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @jennamoon
Ben Cohen is a Star staff reporter in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @bcohenn


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