"I Understand Immunology. I Know That Vaccinations Can Help."
While many West Islanders know Dr. Laurie Dunbar as one of the great practitioners at Pierrefonds Animal Hospital, she's also one of the many volunteers working tirelessly to ensure all seniors are getting their vaccine against COVID-19. However, while there may be light at the end of the tunnel, there are still many questions being asked about the vaccination process.
To better understand the process, Kris Artuso spoke to Dr. Laurie Dunbar in a West Island News Exclusive Interview.
Kris: For those who don't know, you're a canine rehab practitioner.
Laurie: That's right, I'm a veterinarian, I do a lot of surgery and I did a certification in canine physical rehabilitation. I'm interested in taking care of pain and mobility issues in dogs. It's been really exciting and I've enjoyed it very much.
Kris: So how do you go from essentially working at an animal hospital to giving COVID-19 vaccines?
Laurie: I have always believed in community service. I used to be a youth basketball coach and when my kids graduated from that, I was looking for other ways to be involved in the community. When I learned that veterinarians were going to be one of the groups of professionals that were going to be able to give vaccinations, I signed up right away.
Kris: Have you started vaccinating?
Laurie: Yes. I've done 3 full days already. I've got about 25 hours under my belt.
Kris: Would it be fair to assume that it was a little nerve-wracking?
Laurie: Yes. So what they first do is give you a training session. We had several hours of training, an introduction to the different vaccines that are available and so on. They also teach you how to give the vaccination because there are a lot of professionals who are not used to dealing with syringes and needles. As a veterinarian, I'm using needles all the time, to give vaccines and administer anesthetics. Having said that, the first day at the vaccination centre, yeah, I was. I was a little nervous but everyone was super welcoming and when the first elderly person came to me, I felt at ease because I love people. You know, at the hospital, animals don't come in by themselves and so you need to be able to communicate with people very effectively and you need to like people.
Kris: There must be an emotional feeling when vaccinating patients. It may seem philosophical, but you think of the people that you're helping out... those who were one of the most vulnerable demographics-
Laurie: Oh yeah, I think it's okay to be philosophical about it. I get such a tremendous sense of well-being in doing this work. If you check out Facebook, there's a picture of an elderly lady that I vaccinated. She's 100 years and eight months old. She got out of her walker and she did a little dance for me to show me how well she felt and I was so delighted. Knowing that it was going to keep her safe and that she was going to feel positive about the future...This vaccination program really is the step towards us returning to normal life, so there's nothing but positive.
Kris: What's the vaccine process like for someone who would show up at a location?
Laurie: So people come in at their appointment time and they're shown where they need to go. There's an area for people with limited mobility or a physical disability and for the rest of the people, they are met by somebody who will check them in. They register, then they go to a nurse evaluator who makes sure that they are well enough to receive the vaccination. Once that process is over, they'll stand in a line for a brief moment and they're directed to one of the vaccinators like myself. I take their information again, confirm that they are who they are supposed to be. I describe the vaccine and where I'm going to give it and I'll ask them which arm they would like it in. After that, I put a little sticker on their hand that tells them the time at which they can leave, 15 minutes after the time of vaccination. They go sit in a designated area and after the 15 minutes, they are free to leave. Of course, somebody is watching after them during that time.
Kris: After that whole process, it seems like the general reactions of those showing up to be vaccinated are positive.
Laurie: Oh yes, oh absolutely. Right now, I'm sure you know there's a little bit of COVID fatigue and sometimes when clients come to us as veterinarians with their pets, there may be a lack of understanding for simple things like the wait times because all the procedures take longer. We can see the strain on people. Let's face it, it's been a trying time for all of us. That being said, when people come to me as a vaccinator of COVID, every single person has been happy. They'll say "I'm so happy that you're doing this, thank you for vaccinating me." They all want to know what vaccine they're getting and you can just see they're feeling the light at the end of the tunnel.
Kris: We're not going to get political, but as a professional in a medical field, what message do you want to make clear about the vaccines in general for people who might be a little more skeptical for a variety of reasons?
Laurie: Okay that's a really good question. I believe in vaccinations. I remember when I started working as a vet over 30 years ago, all the time, we would have dogs that would die of distemper. I haven't seen a case of distemper in probably 25 years because that disease was eradicated through vaccination. I understand immunology. I know that vaccination can help. It's not 100% but it will help to prevent you from becoming ill with this virus. Also, I received the vaccine myself two weeks ago. The vaccination didn't hurt, it's a small needle, it's a small dose of liquid that's injected and I did not have any side effects other than my arm was a little sore when I slept on it at night, so I can reassure people that for most of us, there's going to be no side effects to this vaccination. I tell my staff at the animal hospital to tell their parents to go get vaccinated as soon as their age category opens up. Let's all get vaccinated.
Dr. Laurie Dunbar has a diploma in Animal Science from the Nova Scotia Agricultural College and a BSc from the University of Guelph. She is the owner of Pierrefonds Animal Hospital.