BEGINNING TO SEE THE LIGHT: Ruby and Whitey Bernard joyously breathe a breath of fresh air after receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination on March 17 in Tofino. (Nora O’Malley photo)

COVID-19: Vaccinations arrive for Tofino and Ucluelet elderly

"I've been waiting for this day for over a year since the pandemic was announced."

  • Mar. 24, 2021 12:00 a.m.

On a sunlit St. Patrick’s Day morn, Whitey and Ruby Bernard linked arms and slowly made their way down the ramp towards the COVID-19 immunization clinic at Tofino’s Coastal Family Place.

A half dozen or so convivial medical staff greeted the elderly couple for their 9:30 a.m. vaccination appointments, including their daughter and public health nurse Karyn Bernard.

Immunization project nurse Joisan Fairwell got them comfortably seated before asking a series of health questions and then administering their first dose of the Moderna vaccine.

“We lost a very dear friend a number of years ago with post-polio syndrome, which is something that affects your lungs in later life if you’ve had polio as a child. So go for it, your vaccination,” Ruby said in the waiting room after receiving her shot.

As a child, Whitey said he had the measles, chicken pox and whooping cough.

“I had them all before there was a vaccine, and it’s not that pleasant when you’re a little kid and you need to be farmed out and isolated,” he said.

“I’m old. I’m old enough to remember infantile paralysis, polio to you folks, and the necessity of getting vaccinated. I kind of don’t understand why anybody would be very concerned about it. It sure don’t hurt,” Whitey, who is 85, went on to say.

Whitey and Ruby met in 1962 at the Tofino Legion. Ruby was a nurse at the time, working at the very location the COVID-19 Immunization Clinic took place.

“Ruby was nursing at this hospital here when I met her. This is where the old nurses resident used to be,” Whitey recalls.

READ: Whitey Bernard reflects on iconic war photo ‘Wait for me, Daddy’

Ruby and Whitey Bernard celebrate the special moment with public health nurse and daughter Karyn Bernard.

For Karyn Bernard, Tofino’s March 17 roll-out of vaccinations had extra special significance.

“I’ve been waiting for this day for over a year since the pandemic was announced. It’s pretty special day for me because not only did my parents qualify to come in and get seen, but my roommate (Patrick Cain) from nursing school it’s his birthday today and he passed away from COVID as an ICU nurse,” Karyn told the Westerly.

“It’s a big day for me. A whole year later on his birthday I get to vaccinate not just my own family, but everybody on the West Coast over the age of 80,” she said.

Residents at Ucluelet’s Forest Glen assisted living, all Tofino General Hospital’s medical staff, and people living in Indigenous offshore communities (that opted to) have had the vaccine, notes Karyn.

“We are starting to see some really good numbers from the West Coast. We are anticipating starting community wide clinics after the Easter weekend,” said Karyn.

She went on to explain why kids under the age of 18 are not eligible to receive COVID-19 protect at this time.

“They weren’t part of the clinical trials. I understand that there are clinical trials underway for a pediatric vaccine, but I have no idea when and if that will be rolled out in Canada,” she said.

Whitey and Ruby were among 40 or so Tofino seniors to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination last week. Ucluelet’s special vaccination clinic for seniors takes place on March 24. West Coast seniors should expect to see the second dose of the vaccination roll-out in July.

Information about community clinic locations and who qualifies next for vaccinations can be found on Island Health’s website.

nora.omalley@westerlynews.caLike us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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