Joan Reenders, Immunizer, Retired Nurse

RBC Convention Centre Immunization Supersite

During my nursing career at Health Sciences Centre I have seen a number of local viral epidemics, from the frightening Respiratory Syncytial Virus affecting premature babies to the H1N1 scare in 2009 while working in Diagnostic Imaging. I saw first-hand how a contagious virus can quickly overwhelm a hospital, severely affecting even patients my own age with no prior health history. Over the last year we have seen throughout the world the devastating effects of COVID-19 for families, local communities, and even entire cities. Very quickly, hospitals in COVID hot-spots became overwhelmed and we realized that this virus is incomparable to what we have seen before – except the Spanish Flu of 1918-19.

I first signed up to be an immunizing nurse in 2009, after the H1N1 vaccine was rapidly developed just in time for the winter months. Community centres and church gymnasiums were filled with nurses vaccinating and volunteers managing the flow of people. We saw first-hand how a deadly virus (especially for those with respiratory ailments) could be stopped by a timely vaccine. Each year since 2009 I have been part of the vaccinating crew, and the 2020-21 has been a vital season for COVID vaccinations as we try to halt the deadly rampage this virus has caused. Retiring two years ago gave me more time to help in this effort, although my retirement plans have taken a backseat this year!

The sense of relief was palpable as we began vaccinating health care workers. When it came time for my turn, I remember wanting to skip to the table to get my shot! The sense of relief that came from getting the vaccine is something I will never forget. As a nurse the thought of transmitting COVID to a patient, family member, or friend fills me with dread. This vaccine is the most effective way to stop the COVID train.

It is not uncommon for people to be uneasy about a new vaccine, and the COVID vaccine is no exception. When someone comes in for their shot and needs some reassurance, the best way I can help is explain how the vaccine works. I ask them to imagine that the vaccine gives your body a “photo” of the virus so it can build the body’s defenses to be able to fight it in the future. The vaccine, in effect, builds an “army” of defense, and the side-effects one might experience are a result of that “army” being built. Typically, one has a sore arm for about 24 hours after the vaccine is given, but some have mild aches, fever, chills, swollen glands – all signs that the body is building its defenses. The knowledge that protection is 50% only one week after the first shot is quite reassuring!

This virus has caused so much personal grief and family tragedy, and for those affected we need to grieve with them. For those who have not been tragically affected, there can be some silver linings: more time with family and pets, slowing our hectic pace, and remembering  that we can be part of something bigger than ourselves – that we can work together to protect the vulnerable among us. As an immunizing nurse, it has been really satisfying to be part of the effort to help protect all Manitobans!


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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.