Got the Shot: Steelworkers happy, relieved to receive COVID-19 vaccines

Health-care workers have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have borne the brunt of the virus front and centre and have witnessed many tragic moments of this pandemic. Late last year, some collective relief came as we heard news that vaccines to protect against COVID-19 have been approved for use. As vaccinations across the country ramp up, we talked to some Steelworkers working in health care about their experiences and what being vaccinated means for them.

Maria Santos, USW Local 1-207

Maria Santos is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at a retirement residence in Edmonton. She works overnight shifts where she comes across 13-16 residents and staff. Not all shifts are the same in terms of the needs of the residents, but one thing remains the same: keeping them safe is top of the task list.

When vaccines became available, Maria was happy but also had some questions, such as how it works and how her body would accept the vaccine. She thought about how getting vaccinated is ultimately to keep ourselves and others safe.

“My happiness in getting vaccinated was much more than my fear,” said Maria.

For others, Maria recommends that people should talk to their family doctor if they have any fears, but ultimately your life is worth protecting and the vaccine will help you.  

Allyza Delmas, USW Local 1-207

Allyza works as a Health Care Aide at a retirement residence in Edmonton. Day-to-day, Allyza assists residents with their meals, medication, exercises and getting them ready for the day or bedtime. During the course of her shift, she comes across, or is exposed to about 12-14 people.

From fearing for the safety of her family members to seeing people across Canada start to get vaccinated, Allyza has started to feel a little bit of relief. Allyza admitted that she had her own doubts about getting vaccinated – she was not the first in line. But she witnessed the co-workers she trusts receive theirs, so she joined in.

“Everyone who is able to get vaccinated should, because it will help all of us. Trust the people who made these vaccines. It’s for our collective benefit. We can go back to a semblance of normalcy again and not feel scared anymore,” said Allyza.

Audra Nixon, USW Local 9211
Maxville, Ont.

Audra Nixon works as a Personal Support Worker at a long-term care facility in Maxville, Ont., that went almost nine months before an outbreak struck. When it did, workers’ days became longer and more grueling than ever. From changing in and out of full personal protective equipment (PPE) 75 to 100 times a shift, to witnessing the sadness of residents in isolation, the load was heavy. The cycle on most days was work and home with a mix of isolation.

When vaccines were approved and arrived, Audra thought, “OMG, there is a bright light!” She was elated to get vaccinated.

Audra wasn’t only protecting herself, but those around her, including her family and the residents she interacts with. Getting that jab was the first step to things getting better – to protecting ourselves and one another.

Janis Trotman, USW Local 8300
Toronto, Ont.

Janis Trotman is a Personal Support Worker (PSW) at a retirement residence in Toronto and is a member of USW Local 8300. She assists residents with their daily living including meals and hygiene. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, staff have been assigned to pods, working on the same two floors each shift. 

During the first wave of the pandemic, Janis noticed people around her being on high alert. She fears that as the pandemic continues and cases surge, people are getting tired. But she works with a vulnerable population, so she remains extra vigilant.

Janis’s workplace was one of the facilities at the top of the vaccination list. Janis decided to get vaccinated on the spur of the moment “instead of stressing about it forever.”

Ultimately, Janis thought that getting vaccinated will protect her and those around her from getting excessively sick or dying. Janis has elderly family members and thought that if she ever wanted to see them again safely, getting vaccinated would help speed that up.

Liezsel Cariaso, USW Local 8300
Toronto, Ont.

Liezsel is the lead food server at a retirement residence in Toronto and is a member of USW Local 8300. But since the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s taken on other duties in her workplace’s pod system where staff are assigned to the same two floors each shift. 

It’s been a long year for Liezsel with a lot of adjustments. While her job isn’t physically hard, it’s become emotionally harder with the pandemic. Things that were taken for granted before the pandemic, like mingling with coworkers, have been missed.

When vaccines became available for Liezsel and her coworkers, she revealed she wasn’t excited because she didn’t have enough information. But she did some research – talked to a family member who is another health-care worker, and together they looked at the facts.

When she was convinced, she got the jab! Liezsel appreciated that she and her coworkers were prioritized in receiving the vaccines. She felt important and that her work was respected. Liezsel’s final words on getting the vaccine: “It will help protect you and those around you. This is the best way for us to move forward together.”

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