Charmane Lazzarotto received the first dose of the COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Kelowna on Dec. 22. (Photo by Interior Health)
Charmane Lazzarotto receives the first dose of the COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Kelowna, Tuesday, Dec. 22. (Interior Health)

Charmane Lazzarotto received the first dose of the COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Kelowna on Dec. 22. (Photo by Interior Health) Charmane Lazzarotto receives the first dose of the COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Kelowna, Tuesday, Dec. 22. (Interior Health)

First to get COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna, healthcare worker urges others to get inoculated

Charmane Lazzarotto was one of the first get a vaccine for the Interior Health region in December

One of the first Canadians to get a COVID-19 vaccine is encouraging people to get inoculated to protect themselves and others against the pandemic.

Healthcare worker Charmane Lazzarotto received the first of two doses of the new Pfizer vaccine in Kelowna on Dec. 22. Lazzarotto said she felt very privileged and excited to be one of the first in the country to get the vaccine.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

READ MORE: First COVID-19 vaccines administered in Interior Health

She said it’s concerning that some people are shying away from the vaccine because of uncertainty, either because it was created in a short period of time or from possible side effects.

Previously, the fastest vaccine – the mumps vaccine – took four years to develop. By comparison, a vaccine for COVID-19, took less than one year.

Experts say the speedy creation of a COVID-19 vaccine is not a product of hasty shortcuts, but instead a combination of multitasking, a coordinated global effort and the fruits of earlier research.

Researchers were not starting from scratch as there had been plenty of studies on similar coronaviruses, such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), with vaccines already in the works for those illnesses.

While it’s been three weeks since Lazzarotta has gotten her first dose, she said there have been no side effects. Lazzarotto said Interior Health will email her when the time comes to get her second dose, which should be soon.

Although Lazzarotto has worked in healthcare for 14 years, she said the last year has been very difficult with the pandemic.

She said it’s traumatizing watching people struggling to breathe on a ventilator.

“Gasping for every breath.”

Lazzarotto said this vaccine is the only way we can end the pandemic.

“If you don’t get the vaccine, you’ll get COVID. It’s spreading like wildfire.”

There are almost 7,000 active COVID-19 cases in B.C., with more than two-thirds of those cases in the Vancouver area.

However, Interior Health announced Jan. 5 that Revelstoke has one of the highest rates of new COVID-19 cases in the province per capita.

According to the weekly data released by the province, the cumulative total of COVID-19 cases in the Revelstoke region has risen to 85 since the start of the pandemic. Last week, 22 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed and the week prior, seven new cases were confirmed.

READ MORE: Revelstoke COVID-19 cases ticking up again

While the Pfizer vaccine was approved in Canada on Dec. 9 and the Moderna vaccine two weeks later, Canada is distributing the inoculations at a slow pace.

Although Canada has received more than 424,050 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines — only 35 per cent of those have been administered to roughly 148,000 Canadians, which is drastically lower than the U.S., where more than 4.6 million people have been inoculated.

On Jan. 5, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he’s “frustrated” with the slow pace of the vaccine rollout, which is being organized by each province and territory. Regardless, Trudeau is still pledging to procure enough vaccinations for every adult Canadian who wants a shot by the end of September.

B.C. public health officials expect to deliver 792,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines by March, with a “mass vaccination” strategy in place by then as additional vaccines are approved for use in Canada.

Interior Health said the first vaccine should be administered in Revelstoke by mid-January.

For the next couple months, priority groups for the vaccine include front-line health care workers, senior care home residents and those waiting for a space in long-term care, and 25,000 residents of remote and Indigenous communities.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he hopes all adult Canadians that want the vaccine will get it by September.

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