Dr. Leonard Minuk, Head of the Department of Medical Oncology and Hematology, CancerCare Manitoba

Last week, the provincial government opened up the AstraZeneca vaccine eligibility to everyone over 40, so my wife became eligible. She asked my opinion about getting the vaccine in the context of the concerns regarding blood clots. Without hesitation, I told her to get to a pharmacy as fast as possible and get the shot. This opinion comes not only as her husband that loves her very much, but also as a hematologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of blood clots. She got her first AstraZeneca shot that same day. The relief and joy were clearly written on her face, visible even through a mask. I haven’t seen her that elated in some time.

Family and friends ask me frequently, “are these vaccines safe?” Most of the hesitancy I hear is around the risk of blood clots as there has been some bad press, specifically about the AstraZeneca vaccine. Serious blood clots have been reported following the AstraZeneca vaccine, but the risk is incredibly small: between about 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 300,000. 

But the fact we’re talking about potential side effects for these vaccines is important. It shows us how closely vaccines are scrutinized and monitored, even more than most other treatments ordrugs we commonly use in medicine. There’s a perception that the COVID vaccines were rushed, and that researchers couldn’t have possibly come up with them in such a short time without cutting corners. In reality, the science that made these vaccines possible has been worked on for years prior to this pandemic.

I also hear some people say they’ll wait a few weeks longer to get a particular vaccine they prefer. My answer to this is generally, “the best vaccine is the fastest one you can get in your arm.” We’re in the midst of a public health emergency, and a delay of a few weeks can mean getting sick with COVID.

I’m very thankful that I was vaccinated in January with two shots of the Pfizer vaccine. Afterward, I had mild symptoms like fatigue and muscle aches. Emotionally, I felt great relief!  Now I could focus on what I was trained to do and what I love to do, which is care for patients, without the ever-present fear of getting sick or—worse—bringing something back to my family.

There are a number of things I look forward to when COVID improves.  I look forward to my kids spending time with their grandparents. I look forward to seeing my friends again and enjoying a meal with them. I look forward to hearing my kids’ school concerts and band recitals.  Like many Manitobans, I look forward to spending part of the winter down south: I would love to lie on a Caribbean beach with a fruity beverage in my hand and chill out while listening to the waves. The only way we get back all that COVID has taken from us is with vaccination.


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Taya Rtichsheva, Founder and Executive Director, U Multicultural

Taya Rtichsheva, Founder and Executive Director, U Multicultural

I worked as a television and film producer in Kazakhstan before immigrating to Canada. In 2017, I opened U Multicultural as a not-for-profit ethnocultural community television and radio broadcaster that focuses on diverse communities in Manitoba. But we had to shut down the studio because of the pandemic. Normally we have members from 30 communities, from Inuit to Yazidi, who film programming in different languages. We’re eager to have community members back in the studio as soon as it’s safe to do so. Getting more Manitobans vaccinated will certainly help with that!

At home the pandemic has been challenging as well. Especially for my 7 year-old daughter who has been doing remote learning. I’m glad the opportunity to learn is there, but kids need social interaction and it’s hard for them to sit at a computer all day.

I had my first shot of the vaccine at the RBC Convention Centre as soon as I was eligible. When I went, the line moved very quickly and I was there for less than an hour in total. Thankfully my only side-effect was a sore arm. I’d like to express my appreciation to everyone working and volunteering there, including the nurses and medical professionals. Bravo!

Members of my family were hesitant about vaccination. Then, after I got my first dose, they changed their minds, slowly, without any pressure, and now they are getting vaccinated. Sometimes people just need to sit with a new idea for a while, see that nothing bad happens, and then they feel comfortable to do it themselves. 

I myself wasn’t hesitant about getting vaccinated. Maybe that is partly because medical doctors I know got vaccinated themselves. We trust doctors with our health, and if doctors themselves are taking the COVID vaccine, that says a lot. Their decisions are based on science, not rumours or myths. 

Seeing now how the vaccines are effectively protecting people is also very powerful. Most of the people now in hospital have not been vaccinated. My undergraduate degree was in journalism, and what I learned is to look at scientific data as a credible source. If you don’t trust the media, you can find scientific data in medical journals available online.

The immunization of Manitobans will make it faster and easier to get back to our pre-COVID life. Israel is a great example; people got vaccinated, now there’s a low rate of COVID, and they’re reopening businesses, cultural organizations and community services.

Before COVID, some of us didn’t value ordinary things like meeting with friends and kids’ activities. After COVID, I think we need to remember the importance of our relationships with other people. Don’t obsess over social media and electronic devices. Meet your friends face-to-face more often. Say kind words to your parents. Understand the unique value of every minute of life. Think of the people who lost their lives to COVID. Personally, I have dreams I want to fulfill, like being able to travel around Canada and the world to produce documentaries. In Winnipeg, I really want to enjoy our summer concerts and festivals, like Jazz Fest and Folk Fest.

For me, getting the vaccine means I’m doing my part to reopen the U Multicultural studio, to be able to welcome back our community members – so we can all get back to normal.

I worked as a television and film producer in Kazakhstan before immigrating to Canada. In 2017, I opened U Multicultural as a not-for-profit ethnocultural community television and radio broadcaster that focuses on diverse communities in Manitoba. But we had to shut down the studio because of the pandemic. Normally we have members from 30 communities, […]

Tyler Hill, Winnipeg Goldeyes

Tyler Hill, Outfielder, Winnipeg Goldeyes

Tyler Hill, Winnipeg Goldeyes

Outfielder Tyler Hill is in his seventh season of professional baseball, and returns to the Goldeyes after hitting .375 for the club in 2019.  Hill had his contract purchased by the Kansas City Royals late that summer, and was assigned to the Carolina League’s Wilmington Blue Rocks in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.  The 25-year-old was so popular amongst the local fans that his likeness was depicted on a bobblehead at the end of the season after the Blue Rocks won the league championship.

Outfielder Tyler Hill is in his seventh season of professional baseball, and returns to the Goldeyes after hitting .375 for the club in 2019.  Hill had his contract purchased by the Kansas City Royals late that summer, and was assigned to the Carolina League’s Wilmington Blue Rocks in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.  The 25-year-old […]

Mwumvaneza Azarias Butariho, Housing Advisor, New Journey Housing

Mwumvaneza Azarias Butariho, Housing Advisor, New Journey Housing

The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful for me. I work from home now and I really miss my colleagues at New Journey Housing. As part of my job as a Housing Advisor I teach a rental workshop where I talk about rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords. I also teach home purchasing workshops where I talk about mortgages and money management. I normally lead these workshops for newcomers in person but because of COVID, the workshops now take place on Zoom. I also can’t meet clients at our office, so when my clients need to sign an application I meet them outside. 

I can’t wait until we can meet people in person and hug each other, share a meal together, talk, and socialize. Normally I meet others for group prayer on Saturdays. I miss it–we really feel very happy when we pray together. Now we meet through the phone, but it’s not the same. When we sing, the voices come in one by one, or they don’t come at all. It’s boring to stay home all the time. I can’t meet my friends and I miss them. And when I go grocery shopping, I’m afraid of catching COVID in the store. 

I hope one day we’ll hear that the province’s COVID numbers are very low. Every day now the numbers are so high, people are dying, people are suffering. COVID has jeopardized so many things. So many people lost their jobs, so many businesses closed. For people coming to Canada from the U.S., Europe or Africa, the hotel quarantine costs a lot of money.

Some people are worried about the vaccine and some people are getting inaccurate information from online sources. I was vaccinated at a pharmacy near where I live in Winnipeg. The needle was like any other needle and I really didn’t feel anything. They told me to sit down and wait for 15 minutes after the injection to see if my body would have a reaction. My body didn’t react to the vaccine, so they told me, okay, bye, go home! I had no side effects! For those who are scared of being immunized, I want to say don’t be scared at all. But I know that even if you are afraid, you should try to find the courage to be immunized. I trust in the vaccinations, I got one myself, and I know that getting vaccinated is the only way we will all be able to get back to normal. 

I’m protecting myself and others by being vaccinated. If all of us are vaccinated, it makes a big difference for everyone because it reduces the spread of COVID. I really would like to encourage each of you to get the vaccine which will boost your immune system. We will be strong together if we all take the vaccine.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful for me. I work from home now and I really miss my colleagues at New Journey Housing. As part of my job as a Housing Advisor I teach a rental workshop where I talk about rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords. I also teach home purchasing workshops where […]

Additional Resources

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine from official sources.