Vaccinations a 'gift' says N.L. nurse, 74, after 1st COVID-19 dose

·3 min read
Submitted by Tonya Kearley-Russell
Submitted by Tonya Kearley-Russell

It's been a week since Newfoundland and Labrador started administering COVID-19 vaccinations to front-line health-care workers, and for some it meant a whole lot more than simply closing the chapter on an unpredictable year.

Diana Kearly is 74. She's also an emergency room nurse at the Dr. Walter Templeman Health Centre on Bell Island, and on Saturday afternoon, Kearly received her first of two doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine.

"I viewed the vaccines when they arrived, as early as they did, as a gift — a gift to mankind —and it's unfortunate that all mankind don't view it as a gift," Kearly told CBC Radio's On The Go.

"But, when you're 74 and you've been through other breakthrough vaccinations for illnesses that kill children, and adults, and mothers and fathers, any vaccination is a gift."

For Kearly, the COVID-19 pandemic is the latest in living and working through challenging health care situations. She has decades of memories from some of the world's most trying situations, including the tail end of tuberculosis, polio and SARS.

She was also a newly-graduated nurse in 1983 as the AIDS epidemic began sweeping the world.

"I, as a nurse working in intensive care, did look after a young AIDS patient at that time who died," she said.

"Back then, that was scary. It's like when COVID arrived. Nobody knew anything about COVID. But we were more prepared today for COVID than we were for AIDS."

Submitted by Tonya Kearley-Russell
Submitted by Tonya Kearley-Russell

'These vaccinations arrived to put an end to it'

Kearly falls into two of the vulnerable groups government and health officials have been trying to protect for the duration of the pandemic since March.

But as both a front-line healthcare worker, and a senior citizen, Kearly said she was never that worried about the actions she was taking, only for people who weren't following public health advice.

"I have no fear that I'm not going to look after me or you. My only fear is that you won't look after me by following procedure," she said.

And when she says age is just a number, she really means it.

Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada
Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada

Kearly pulls no punches in discussing the medical science that went into developing the ongoing rollout of vaccinations, swatting away fears and conspiracies that have surfaced since the initial announcement.

"People who are afraid to go out and take this vaccine because of the length of time it didn't take to develop it, they must realize that the development of it is probably the shortest part of it all," she said, adding in normal circumstances vaccinations are usually caught up in red tape, paperwork and funding.

"This is my take on it: we read history books about the Spanish influenza and the black plague, and thought 'my God the devastation.' In a generation's time people will read about this and they'll say 'my God the devastation.' But these vaccinations arrived to put an end to it," she said.

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