A 16-year-old front-line worker from Mississauga got her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday, making her one of the youngest people in the province to be vaccinated.
The teen was able to register for the shot because she is considered an essential worker, engaging with the public and filling prescriptions as a part-time pharmacy assistant at Shoppers Drug Mart.
“I think everybody should go get vaccinated if they’re able to because they can then keep their friends and families safe,” said Rachel Mendonza, just minutes before receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech shot at Paramount Fine Foods Centre, a vaccination centre in Mississauga.
“I find it’s very important for me to do this.”
The 11th grader lives with her parents who are both immunocompromised, a factor Mendonza said contributed to her excitement on Wednesday when her manager told her she and her colleagues were eligible to be vaccinated.
“It’s really good to know that we’re all helping keep everybody safe,” she said, adding that all of her colleagues are set to be vaccinated within the week.
Mendonza started working at the pharmacy at the end of November to fulfil her co-op placement for school. She is part of Ontario’s Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program for health and wellness, which allows high school students to graduate with skills and knowledge relevant to their chosen industry.
The teen’s mother, Hayley Phillips, said she was extremely excited and somewhat shocked that her daughter was eligible for the vaccine, considering her age.
It’s important for young people to be vaccinated: doctor
While seniors are being prioritized in the next phase of vaccinations, Dr. Janine McCready, an infectious disease physician at Michael Garron Hospital, said it’s very important for all front-line workers, regardless of age, to be vaccinated.
“Younger people likely have a higher chance of being without symptoms,” said McCready.
“So even if she was following all the public health advice, doing everything she could, in her role as a front-line worker, she’s going to be exposed to more people during the day and then also potentially could pass on the virus to more people,” she said, referring to Mendonza’s case.
Mendonza acknowledged that some people might be frustrated by the fact that a teenager got vaccinated before other high-risk groups, but she added that inoculation for front-line workers benefits everyone.
“I think it’s definitely important for the elderly to get vaccinated first,” she said. “It’s also very helpful for front-line workers to get vaccinated so they can help with giving out vaccinations.”
Workplace outbreaks ‘huge part’ of virus transmission
On Friday, officials said Ontario expects to give all adults 60 and older a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by early June, as they detailed who will be eligible for a shot during Phase 2 of the province’s immunization campaign.
Ontario’s rollout strategy was recently revised amid a wave of vaccine-related news, including the approvals of a third and fourth vaccine for use in Canada and the option to space out doses of some vaccines by up to four months.
While Ontario has seen a series of positive announcements in regard to the vaccine timeline, Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist, said that easing restrictions in regions like Toronto and Peel Region starting Monday comes with risks, especially in workplaces.
“I think the one liability is not necessarily the socialization that comes with the lifting of the stay-at-home order, it’s the opening of different workplaces,” Chagla said on Saturday.
The doctor said workplace outbreaks are a “huge part” of the transmission of the virus in places like Peel Region and Toronto, and not necessarily the customer-facing contact, but the worker-to-worker contact.
“I think this has to be done very carefully,” he said.
Vaccine process easy, completely painless, teen says
Meanwhile, Phillips said she’s proud of her daughter for being a role model to younger people and for being eager to receive the vaccination.
“There’s a lot of talk among young people these days that it doesn’t impact them or affect them as much or they’re sort of immune to it,” Phillips said.
Mendonza said the process was easy.
“It was really good. It was completely painless…. They took very good care of me,” she said.
The Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga is one of two vaccination clinics that opened this week in Peel Region. Peel Public Health says the dose capacity there is 7,800 per day.
A representative for Peel Public Health said second-dose appointments are booked onsite. In case a recipient is unavailable 21 days after the first dose, there is a seven-day window to get the second dose.
The teen worker said she’s registered to get her second dose of the vaccine in April.
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