Retired nurses stepping up to help the coronavirus vaccine efforts in London, Ont.

Beth Shields, a 71-year-old retired nurse, working at the coronavirus vaccine clinic at the Western Fair District Agriplex in London, Ont. Supplied by London Health Sciences Centre

Although she retired a year and a half ago, 71-year-old Beth Shields is one of many front-line workers re-entering the workforce to help in the vaccine effort.

Shields worked as a nurse in southwestern Ontario for 49 years and said when she heard health-care workers were starting to vaccinate people for the coronavirus, she did not hesitate to come back to work.

“I honestly felt the need to help in some small way,” Shields said.

Within a few days, she was on the job helping front-line workers get the vaccine.

“The health-care workers coming in are wanting to be there, they want their vaccinations,” she said.

“It’s injecting some hope into everyone that there is going to be an end to this at some point.”

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Shields is one of at least 20 retired nurses who are now helping to vaccinate people in London.

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Carol Young-Ritchie, the executive vice-president, chief nursing officer and vice-president of professional practice, medicine, critical care and family medicine at London Health Sciences Centre, said that when news of vaccines broke, retired nurses who started offering their services before they even put a call out.

“I am not surprised. We have a large nursing community in London and from a lot of different sectors.”

Ritchie said they are still looking for volunteers, but said right now it depends on how many vaccines the region can get from the province.

“Depending on the number of vaccines we have, we are enthusiastic to get that into people’s arms,” Ritchie said.

The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines are the two that are currently approved by Health Canada and being administered across the country.

Vaccinations continue at the Western Fair District Agriplex and at local long-term care homes.

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Phase 1 of the province’s three-phase vaccine rollout is set to run until March, with health-care workers; essential caregivers; adults in First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations; and adults who receive chronic home health care on the list of those to be vaccinated.

A total of 159,021 vaccine doses have been given in the province. At least 13,293 complete two-dose vaccinations have been administered.

—With files from Matthew Trevithick

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