The end of the COVID-19 nightmare is in sight

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Folks, my focus today is on vaccines.

Yes, I am that old. I can confirm that indeed I have received my first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, from the Saskatchewan Health Authority drive-thru in Battleford.

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There isn’t much to say about it, really. On the day that I went, there was no lineup to speak of and I was in and out of there so fast that I completely forgot that I was supposed to do a “first person” story on the whole experience — one where I could de-mystify the vaccine experience for you at home.

Sorry, but it was pretty standard stuff. I got vaccinated, and then I went home. And frankly, I don’t want to make that big a deal of it, given the fact that so many readers out there seem to want to get into fistfights on social media over vaccines. Everyone is free to decide for themselves, this is a free country. 

The vaccination happened at the former home of Kramer Caterpillar in Battleford. It was a much-touted addition to the Battlefords’ business scene when it opened; I had even interviewed the president of the company on the lot back when the project was in its planning stages.

But then the structure was left vacant after Finning bought the company and unceremoniously closed it down. The building has since found new life as a drive-thru vaccination centre. The SHA has used the venue for both drive-thru and scheduled appointments over the past number of weeks.

At that COVID-19 vaccination, several vehicles were able to line up inside the large venue. Then, the health people gather everyone’s health cards and information, they give you the needle, and then you must wait 15 minutes to make sure you’re not having an allergic reaction. They also give you a card stating that you have received your first dose as well as a sticker announcing that you have been vaccinated! And finally they open the garage doors and you are on your way out.

This isn’t the first time I have been vaccinated at that location. They ran the drive-thru clinic for their flu vaccine at the Kramer location during the fall. Back then, health officials were saying their flu clinics were a dry run for when they set up their COVID-19 clinics.

Basically, there was really no difference in the experience of getting a COVID-19 vaccine — except one. This time, I was far more interested in finding out who the manufacturer was for the COVID-19 vaccine. In this case, it was Pfizer.

I did have the option of waiting a few days until the following week to keep my initial scheduled vaccine appointment. I had already booked an appointment to be vaccinated at the new BATC vaccination site set up at the Dekker Centre.

In the end, I cancelled the Dekker Centre appointment and went through the drive-thru, simply because I wanted it over with.

For me, the dreaded “side effects” consisted of being tired on and off for the next few days. But the main side effect was one that particularly affected my mental health. I noticed I was “hopeful” and “optimistic.”

That’s also how Premier Scott Moe described getting his vaccine in Regina. It seems a common reaction. More and more, you see enthusiasm from the people who have lined up for vaccines around the province.

Friends of mine went on Facebook to proudly announce to the world that they got their first dose. Our friend Brian Zinchuk was among waited in line in the Regina drive-thru rather than wait any longer for an appointment, and he got the shot right before they ran out. He called it the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

You know what? He’s right. The vaccines are going to do what a year of masks and social distancing and hiding at home have failed to do, and that is end this pandemic nonsense and get us our freedom back.

The eligibility requirements keep on expanding every few days. It shouldn’t be long before everyone over 18 will be able to book their shots. The province has stated their goal is to have everyone who wants a dose to be able to book one by mid-May. Hopefully, that will happen, but it depends on supplies.

It’s embarrassing that Canada was not on the ball sooner with the vaccines, or on the ball for a lot of other things in how they approached the pandemic. It’s an outrage that Canada’s vaccine rollout is hampered so much by supply issues.

Meanwhile, we are still suffering through lockdown situations here in Canada, with new restrictions week after week in provinces across Canada including some particularly draconian orders in Ontario.

What it means is everyone — including those of us who have gotten their first doses — have to put up with restrictions for a little while longer. But hopefully, not for too much longer.

We are seeing what’s going on in Israel and in the U.K., where restrictions are being lifted and peoples’ lives are getting back to normal. These places were particularly hard-hit and had to deal with the dreaded “variants,” and yet the vaccines have brought daily COVID-19 rates and hospitalizations down dramatically. We can look forward to that in Canada, soon.

This past year of sitting at home in disgust waiting for the vaccines to arrive has really given me an opportunity for introspection about where my life is going.

I’ll tell you straight up, now that I have gotten my first dose, I am starting to finally think of the “future plans” that I have been forced to put on the shelf for this past miserable year. In particular, I am talking “vacation plans.”

For me, seeing the rest of the world is an urgent priority. I am thinking hard about places to go in Europe or Asia.

Another goal of mine is seeing more of the United States. While I have seen a huge chunk of the USA already, there are plenty of states I haven’t been to, like Arizona and Texas and a bunch of southern and grain plains states in the middle of the country. A road trip would seem to be a good idea.

Of course, for that to happen we will need Justin Trudeau to finally open the borders and also get rid of these outrageous “quarantine hotels” they have set up, where returning Canadians are forced to stay at a cost of $2,000!

Heck, I would even welcome a simple return to life as we knew it. I’m hoping in the near future to go to an actual cinema for the first time in ages. I might finally, at long last, celebrate my new-found immunity to COVID-19 by getting to a cinema to see Godzilla vs. Kong, and cheer on the giant lizard as he beats up on the big gorilla.

That ain’t happening this week, though, because the Capitol is closed due to variant fears.

Or maybe I could celebrate by attending a ‘Riders game! Again, that’s not happening any time soon — the CFL just announced the season is delayed to Aug. 5! That’s assuming the authorities allow fans in the stands.

In unison, folks: “Aaargh!!!”

Obviously, these are reminders that we are not at the finish line of the pandemic yet. We’re still a while away from life getting truly back to normal.

But it is good to start thinking positively about the future and what could be possible. It’s been a long time coming.

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