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Sep. 27, 2021 | Monday
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NOTLer one of first to receive vaccine
Megan Vanderlee received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Jan. 2. (Richard Harley)

Megan Vanderlee is among the first Niagara-on-the-Lake residents to have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccine is being rolled out in Niagara this week, but she was given her first dose of the two-part Pfizer vaccine at Hamilton Health Sciences on Jan. 2. She is scheduled to get her second shot Jan. 23.

Vanderlee was able to get the vaccine because she was an essential caregiver to her mother Emmajane, who had been staying at St. Joseph's Villa in Dundas.

The home was able to offer her the chance to get the shot because Hamilton received some of the first shipments of the vaccine in Ontario, she said.

"Hamilton region, since there had higher number of cases, they got the first shipments like Toronto and Peel and Essex. We were fortunate enough to be offered it for safety for our folks," Vanderlee said.

Her mother died Jan. 5.

"So it was kind of like the last gift she ever gave me," Vanderlee said of getting the vaccine.

Getting it was rather painless and "similar to a flu shot," Vanderlee said, though there were extra screening protocols and physical distancing.

"They screen you once, they screen you twice, then you go into this huge conference room which is all sectioned off with volunteers bringing you to the properly sectioned areas," she told The Lake Report.

She said each section had two nurses and people were spaced 10 feet apart.

"They go over the questionnaire again. Then they do the injection and then you go wait for about 15 minutes and then you must go see paramedic before you leave."

She said a paramedic she spoke with told here there hadn't been any negative reactions to the vaccine so far at the clinic.

Vanderlee said the worst part was the jab of the needle.

"It hurts when a needle goes in your arm and you might feel sore. My arm felt a little sore the next day. Similar to a flu shot."

She said being able to visit her mom was difficult, as the home had been in COVID lockdown and had seen previous cases and deaths in other wings of the complex.

It wasn't until her mother was put in end-of-life care that the home allowed three people to visit.

While she was taking care of her mother, Vanderlee was getting weekly COVID tests at Simpson's Pharmacy in NOTL.

She said the vaccine was offered to anybody who was an essential caregiver.

"Any essential caregiver that wanted one could have one, because, of course, it's not mandatory. Some of the nurses said they'd rather wait for the Moderna, so they did."

A week later, Vanderlee said she has "not turned into a zombie yet" and encourages everyone to get the vaccine.

"I think it's my responsibility almost at this point to say, I feel fine, there's no side effects. It's old science, just used on a new mutation."

She reminds anyone who is skeptical that "you're not injected with the COVID virus."

"It's a protein that surrounds a virus that your body. My body is now building antibodies to attack when it sees it again."

To those that are still skeptical after hearing her story, she says, "Just do some research."

"If you choose not to, just remember there's a lot worse things out there, like (post-COVID) symptoms," she said.

"I've known people who have had (COVID) in the area and were very ill and are still having symptoms."

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