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‘It means a lot’: Penticton seniors share COVID-19 vaccine experiences

Click to play video: '‘It means a lot’: Penticton seniors share COVID-19 vaccine experiences'
‘It means a lot’: Penticton seniors share COVID-19 vaccine experiences
It's the second day of B.C.’s mass COVID-19 immunization campaign for seniors over the age of 85. Shelby Thom speaks with seniors about what it means to them to receive the life-changing and potentially life-saving vaccine after a year of isolation – Mar 16, 2021

There was joy, relief and hope at Penticton’s mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Tuesday as approximately 160 seniors over the age of 85 received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Olga Rusinko, 88, and John Rusinko, 93, said they’ve been isolating at home since last March because their age made them at high risk of severe illness if they were to contract the disease.

“We have been at home the whole time in the house. The kids do all the shopping and we want to get out already. Today is one of the first times that we went out,” Olga said.

John said he misses spending time with his grandchildren.

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Interior Health opens Okanagan vaccination clinics

“I miss the boys because we do a lot of little projects together,” he said.

The pair, who have five children, said receiving the first dose of the vaccine gives them some peace of mind.

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“It means a lot because we want to live a little longer,” Olga said.

June Hull, 89, and William Hull, 91, said the greatest hardship has been the fact that they are unable to visit their son and grandson, who live in Denver, Colorado.

“We’d like to go visit our son. We haven’t seen him for a year. We can’t get out of the country and he can’t come to see us so that’s the biggest thing,” June said.

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She added the process on Tuesday was seamless, but it was a challenge to book an appointment last week when the call centres opened for the first time.

“It took us two days to get an appointment. Apparently they had a glitch in the call centre on Monday so we couldn’t get in,” she said. “I finally had to sit on the phone for an hour on Tuesday and finally got my appointment.”

May Eleanor McTaggart , 91, said she has a fear of needles, but still mustered the courage to roll up her sleeve.

“The worst part for me is getting the needle because I hate needles and I tense up and then I end up with a sore arm, but other than that, as far as the shot is confirmed, it was fine,” she said.

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McTaggart, like many selfless seniors, said she felt undeserving of being prioritized for a COVID-19 vaccine based on her age.

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Okanagan residents report challenges booking vaccines

“I wouldn’t have bothered because I always think the younger people need it that have families before me because my life is just about over anyway,” she said.

The seniors were told they’d have to come back to the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre in four months for their booster shot.

Tuesday marked the second day of B.C.’s mass COVID-19 immunization campaign for an age cohort of the general population, with those over the age of 85 eligible to call to book their vaccine appointment.

Interior Health plans to open 47 community immunization clinics across the B.C. Interior. They will be held in arenas, trade and convention centres, community centres and curling clubs.

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For more information, visit Interior Health’s COVID-19 vaccine information page. 

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