‘A chance of survival’: Seniors get vaccinated as mass immunization clinics open across the Island

'A chance of survival': Seniors get vaccinated as mass immunization clinics open across the Island
Jasmine Bala/CHEK News
Bruce McLean, 91, receives his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine Monday. McLean is one of 700 seniors who went through the doors of the UVic McKinnon Gym vaccination clinic on Monday

Mass vaccination clinics opened up across Vancouver Island today to immunize seniors 90 years and older.

“I couldn’t believe how painless it was,” said 91-year-old Bruce McLean, who was one of the first to get vaccinated Monday morning. “I was all set for it to hurt. I was told it was going to hurt a bit, but it didn’t! Not in my case.”

McLean is a writer and spends most of his time alone nowadays. He said he misses going to the movies, Victoria Symphony concerts and the big family dinners they have a few times a month.

For McLean’s daughter, Moira, it’s a moment of comfort and hope.

“[I’m] relieved, really relieved,” she said. “And looking forward to being able to have my whole family around the table again.”

McLean is one of 700 seniors who will go through the doors of the UVic McKinnon Gym vaccination clinic on Monday. It’s the first day the mass immunization clinics are open to the general public. Before this, only healthcare workers were able to get their shots at the clinics.

READ MORE: What to expect when Island mass vaccination clinics open on Monday

“It’s very exciting that we are able to immunize the most vulnerable population right now,” said Tia Niedjalski, a manager of public health for Island Health. “So a lot of happy folks, a lot of happy tears, a lot of happy immunizers.”

The UVic McKinnon Gym clinic is able to flex up or flex down in staffing, she added, depending on how much is needed for the portion of the population coming in on a particular day. Seven hundred seniors will be immunized on Monday, but that number can go up to 1,440 if needed.

“It is a very fluid system based on what the population needs and our vaccine,” Niedjalski explained. “If the population is a bit bigger or it’s growing … then we can flex up to what that needs.”

Bill and Helen Mounce have been married for 68 years and they received their COVID-19 vaccines together. Helen sitting at a booth in front and Bill getting his shot at a station behind her.

“There was nothing to it, my goodness,” said Helen.” I didn’t even feel the needle going in, it was amazing how easy it was.”

Bill doesn’t like needles, Helen said, laughing. But he didn’t mind this one.

“Now that we’ve been vaccinated, I think we’ve got a chance of survival,” Bill said. “This is what we’ve been waiting for, for a year.”

The UVic McKinnon Gym is one of 21 mass vaccination clinics on the Island.

Smaller communities that don’t have a vaccination clinic will see rapid clinics set up by Island Health instead.

The province is currently in Phase Two of its immunization plan that will see seniors age 80 and over and Indigenous people 65 years old and up get vaccinated between now and April.

Once your age group is eligible, residents can phone the Island Health call centre in order to book a date and time for their immunization. There are no walk-in appointments.

A full list of vaccine clinics can be found here.

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Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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