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'This is Our Shot': Doctors team up to reduce COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in Canada

Last Updated Apr 29, 2021 at 10:22 am PDT

(Courtesy Twitter/@thisisourshotca)

'I can guarantee that we will make it through this, as,' Dr. Alike Lafontaine said

Allergies of concern related to COVID-19 vaccines are 'exceedingly rare,' said Dr. Anahi Perlas Lactf

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A rallying cry of “This Is Our Shot” is aiming to reduce COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy amongst Canadians.

Doctors from across the country joined a livestream Thursday, hosted by former Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes, to answer questions from the public.

Will this pandemic ever end?

“I can guarantee that we will make it through this. This will eventually come to an end,” said Dr. Alika Lafontaine. “The reason why we all came together … is because we know that getting vaccinated is one of the ways to speed up coming to that end.”

He says every COVID-19 vaccine dose administered helps get everyone’s lives back to some kind of normalcy.

“I have to get wrapped in plastic with a gown, gloves, an N95 mask, a hat, a face shield. Every single patient, I take those on and off to make sure that you stay safe. Getting your vaccine is the way to help me get through this. It’s the way that I’m going to help you get through this. It’s the way that we’re going to help each other,” he added.

How do I talk to loved ones who are hesitant to get vaccinated?

Dr. Modupe Tunde Byass was asked how you should talk to a family member, or a friend, that isn’t sure about getting the jab. She suggests first asking them why they are hesitant.

“If you don’t address that, then it’s going to be difficult,” she said, noting reasons can vary from worries about side-effects to the concerns the vaccine is not safe.

“If it has to do with people not being comfortable or looking for other people that very much look like them, then you can look at community vaccinators to talk to them,” she added.

Dr. Anna Wolak says family doctors are often asked about how to talk to their loved ones about their hesitancy.

“The most important thing is that they trust you. You are a safe space for them. Support them and reassure them. Don’t just disregard them. Listen to them,” she said.

She adds it can also be helpful to explain why you are choosing to take the vaccine.

What about allergies?

Another question centered around allergies and whether those have them should be worried about getting the vaccine.

Dr. Anahi Perlas Lactf says there are only a couple of allergies of concern.

“One of them is if you have received your first dose of a vaccine and you develop a serious allergy. Then it’s recommended that your second dose is from a different kind of vaccine,” Perlas Lactf said.

“The other allergy of concern is if you are allergic to any of the components of the vaccines — more specifically, polyethylene glycol, which is a component of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine or polysorbate, which is a component of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” she added.

Perlas Lactf says these allergies are “exceedingly rare.”

“Just to give you an example, polyethylene glycol, is a very very common substance in everyday products such as shampoos and toothpaste. So it’s very, very rare to be allergic to that,” she said.

What if I’ve already had COVID?

Dr. Wolak was asked whether you should get a vaccine if you have already contracted COVID-19. She says the answer is: “Absolutely.”

“We don’t know how long the antibodies from your acute infection are going to protect you. We know that the immunity you get from vaccination is longer-lasting. So please, even if you have had a COVID infection, you do need to get your vaccination.”

She says the current guidelines are that as soon as Public Health has cleared you and you are out of isolation, you can get whatever vaccine you are eligible for.

Should I be worried that the vaccines were developed too fast?

Dr. Alika Lafontaine was asked about how we can be sure the vaccines are safe, given how quickly they were developed. He says the techniques have been around for years, if not decades — and these vaccines were developed with a “new application.”

He says Health Canada has “very robust” approval processes, and all of the vaccines offered here have gone been approved.

“Keep in mind, never … have we really been confronted about something like this, at least in my lifetime. So, you have the entire world looking at this … all these resources pouring in to solve this one problem,” Lafontaine said.

Asked why masks and physical distancing are still needed if the vaccines are so effective, Dr. Perlas Lactf says it takes up to three weeks to develop immunity after you’ve received your first dose.

“During those two to three weeks after your vaccine, you may still be vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. After those two to three weeks, the coverage from your first dose is substantial, but not complete. Even after you receive your second dose … You will be protected, but we are not 100 per cent sure that you can’t still transmit COVID-19 to other people, even if you are not the one getting sick.

Celebrities taking part in the campaign include Burnaby-born singer Michael Buble and Vancouver-born actor Ryan Reynolds, astronaut Chris Hadfield, and singer Sarah McLachlan.

The “This Is Our Shot” website has vaccine FAQs available in 28 languages.