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Four staff members who have received COVID-19 vaccine
Holland Bloorview staff receive COVID-19 vaccine

Direct care and client-facing providers first to be vaccinated thanks to Michael Garron partnership

Main photo, from left to right: Charise MacDonald, occupational therapist, neuromuscular team; Fraser Stephenson, inpatient physiotherapist, brain injury rehab team; Sandra Ramdial, prosthetist and operations manager, orthotics and prosthetics; and Hayley Weinberger, registered nurse, specialized orthopedic and developmental rehab.

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital is pleased to announce that members of its staff have been, and will continue to be, vaccinated against COVID-19. As of January 12, 2021, about 375 direct care and client-facing providers at the hospital have rolled up their sleeves to receive the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA shot. This initiative is the result of a partnership with Michael Garron Hospital, which has been designated a COVID-19 vaccine provider for Holland Bloorview staff by Ontario Public Health.

The first Holland Bloorview team member received their vaccination on the January 2-3, 2021 weekend. All non-clinical staff at the hospital are included in a rollout strategy to ensure everyone is vaccinated in the coming weeks and months.

To celebrate this monumental occasion—the result of hard work and collaboration involving many teams—four staff members who were among the first to receive the vaccine share their thoughts, feelings and experiences. Meet Charise MacDonald, occupational therapist, neuromuscular team; Sandra Ramdial, prosthetist and operations manager, orthotics and prosthetics; Fraser Stephenson, inpatient physiotherapist, brain injury rehab team; and Hayley Weinberger, registered nurse, specialized orthopedic and developmental rehab.

What are your thoughts on the Michael Garron Hospital-Holland Bloorview partnership that enabled you to get the vaccine?

CM: I was surprised and thrilled that Holland Bloorview staff were able to access the vaccine so early. 

SR: It’s truly amazing. My experience at Michael Garron was great—I was checked in, got the vaccine and was very impressed by the way they organized the entire process!

FS: I think it’s great. We’ve been able to get a lot of client-facing staff vaccinated in a short period of time, which is exciting. It happened faster than I was expecting.

HW: I am very grateful for the Michael Garron Hospital-Holland Bloorview partnership for providing our staff with the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Why did you choose to receive the vaccine?

CM: I see children and youth with complex disabilities, including those with high respiratory care needs, from across Ontario, and I am mindful of my role in keeping them safe while providing them with essential services. It is important to me that children, youth and families feel safe while we are working together.

SR: With the vaccine, I’m able to help and safely treat the clients we serve. Once I get the second dose, my body will be ready and prepared to fight this virus as it will already have the antibodies to recognize and kill it. Also, if a large percentage of us become immune, the spread of the virus will slow down and eventually stop. We will all be able to get back to a “normal” life!

FS: I got called at 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve to get the vaccine on New Year’s Day. I had no idea what the process was going to be, but once it was offered they didn’t have to ask me twice. COVID-19 has had a major negative impact in a variety of ways on the lives of people all over the world, so anything I can do to help combat that, I’m happy to do.

HW: I chose to receive the vaccine to protect the Holland Bloorview community, including our vulnerable client population, their families and my colleagues. Receiving the vaccine also provides protection from the COVID-19 virus for myself and my loved ones. 

What do you say to people who are skeptical about the vaccine?

CM: Vaccination is a personal decision. I think it is important for people to make informed decisions. I was comfortable with the information I received about the vaccine and vaccination process. Protecting the children, youth and families I see at work as well as my own family is a huge relief. 

SR: I completely understand the concern and hesitation as this is something very new to us all. Based on experienced medical experts’ recommendations, I’m fully confident in the efficacy of this treatment. I’d say to read up on information and be as informed as possible, do your own research, weigh the risks and benefits and then make your decision. For those with any special considerations, they should always get help from a medical professional to make an informed decision.

FS: Everything in life has some level of risk associated with it. I’d encourage people to read into what legitimate research says in terms of potential side effects and vaccine effectiveness, if they are interested in learning more. Personally, the decision was easy for me in that the pros outweighed the cons.

HW: I understand why people have questions about the vaccine, and I had questions myself. As I did my own research, I found it helpful to read reliable, scientific articles and weigh the risks and benefits of receiving the vaccine in order to make an informed decision. 

How do you feel now that you’ve been vaccinated?

CM: I’m only 50% vaccinated so far! I think I will feel much less nervous, both at work and in my personal life. I have felt a huge sense of responsibility to make decisions that will keep the clients I see for essential care safe.

SR: I feel so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to be vaccinated—my second dose is scheduled on my birthday, so that’s the best gift I could get! My wish is that everyone be given the same chance soon, so that we can all safely do our jobs and be with our families and friends again!

FS: I feel good, mostly the same. My friends and family are jealous of me that I got it before them, which is fun for me.

HW: I feel excited and hopeful! The vaccine represents an exciting turning point in the pandemic and is a huge step toward the protection of the Holland Bloorview community and society as a whole. 

How will your approach to work change now that you’ve been vaccinated?

CM: I don’t think there will be any visible changes to my interactions with children, youth and families, or with my colleagues; however, I imagine, and hope, some of the underlying anxiety about my risk of exposing others is reduced.

SR: I’m not going to change anything until most can be vaccinated, so I’ll continue with Toronto Public Health measures, wearing a mask, handwashing, disinfecting high-touch surfaces and physically distancing, but it’s great knowing that getting the vaccine is another layer of protection!

FS: There will be no change. Safe and effective physiotherapy for the kids in our program is always the goal.

HW: While I will continue to take all necessary precautions at work, the vaccine provides an extra layer of protection for myself, my clients and their families.