16-year-old among first to receive vaccine

·3 min read

When 16-year-old Alice Roberts took a job washing dishes at Colonel By Retirement Residence, she likely didn't think it would put her at the front of the line to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

But after months of wearing PPE while enduring the intense heat of the dishpit, the teenager has found herself in an envious position.

"It was like a flu shot, honestly. It was really quick and it didn't hurt," she told Radio-Canada on Saturday.

Front-line workers at hospitals and long-term care homes were among the first people eligible to receive the vaccine in Ontario.

Despite not working directly with residents, Roberts eagerly rolled up her sleeve and received her first dose when her turn came — making her one of the youngest in the country to be inoculated.

She called getting the vaccine important because she doesn't want to transmit the virus to her parents or the residents at Colonel By. She hopes others follow suit once injections become more readily available.

An outbreak was declared at the facility in October, with two staff members testing positive for the virus, according to Ottawa Public Health's dashboard.

"I don't want that happening again," she said.

"I think it's really important just to do whatever we can," said Trish Arthurs, Roberts' mother. "She's in a position where she can do this for the residents of the home but also for everyone around her."

She said no one expected that when Roberts took her first job it would lead her to working with a vulnerable population during a global pandemic.

"I'm very proud of Alice," she added.

Vaccine is safe for use: Ottawa doctor

Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, an intensive and palliative care physician at the Ottawa and Montfort hospitals, also hopes people overcome any hesitancy towards the vaccine, which he received on Friday at the Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus.

"It was incredible. In so many ways, so many emotions were going through your head, your mind, your heart," he said. "You just reflect on how much has changed in the last nine months."

Kyeremanteng said he has heard stories of workers in long-term care homes waiting to be inoculated because they worry of unwanted side-effects.

A personal support worker working in the ICU even told Kyeremanteng that she would take the vaccine as long as he did, too.

Francis Ferland/CBC
Francis Ferland/CBC

"Despite a lot of people feeling like this was rushed, all the steps were taken to ensure our safety," Kyeremanteng said. "When it comes to vaccine complications, they tend to come within the first six weeks of receiving the vaccine."

"I, personally, am very confident in the science and if I wasn't, I wouldn't be taking it myself," he continued.

Roberts said she likes helping the residents of the home, even if it's indirectly, through washing dishes.

She believes life will be a bit better now that she's partially protected, but knows she still needs to be careful until she's fully vaccinated after a second shot.

"It's cool that I actually get a chance to receive the vaccine," she said.