Manitoba’s teenagers and oldest children didn’t waste any time Friday once they became eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Within hours, parents were clogging phone lines, appointments were booked in record numbers and eligible Indigenous teenagers were rolling up their sleeve that day.
Ben McKenzie may have been the first teenager in Manitoba to get his vaccine after the minimum age was dropped to 12.
He felt there was no time like the present.
“I wanted to get vaccinated as soon as possible and apparently, I’m the first,” McKenzie, 15, said, after the commotion of his inoculation — the first at the urban Indigenous vaccination clinic at Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre on McGregor Street in Winnipeg. The walk-in clinic is exclusively for Indigenous people, 12 years of age and up.
Ben McKenzie wants to be protected against the novel coronavirus for himself, his family and to visit his Nana again, who is immunocompromised, he said.
Vaccines protect the community
“By getting vaccinated, you’re just keeping everyone in your community safe, you’re keeping your family safe, you’re keeping the elders safe,” Ben McKenzie said.
His mother, Marion McKenzie, the operations manager at the centre, said it was emotional to see her son receive his first vaccine. She asked for a thumbs-up after her son’s vaccine shot was administered by Dr. Marcia Anderson, lead for the Manitoba First Nations pandemic response team.
“As a parent, the sense of relief that you get is pretty overwhelming,” Marion McKenzie said.
“You really get this weight lifted off your shoulders that you didn’t quite know was there.”
Outside the centre in the early afternoon, Kingsley Dumas, 15, and his sister Kadee, 16, were patiently waiting their turn for a vaccine shot.
“I can’t wait to get it,” Kingsley said. “It’s pretty awesome that we can have it now.”
Aniel Ali said he booked appointments for his children at Ma Mawi as soon as he heard the news on Friday. In his eyes, there’s no purpose in waiting for a vaccination shot.
“I mean, why hesitate?” Ali said. “There’s no need to hesitate. It’s going to benefit them, us, the community and, most importantly, family.”
His kids had plenty of company.
Record number of appointments
The province reported late Friday afternoon more than 33,000 vaccine appointments — and counting — were reserved that day, dwarfing the previous one-day record of 26,000 bookings on Wednesday.
Many reports on social media said parents waited on the phone for more than an hour on Friday.
Provincial officials said the vast majority of appointments on a day when eligibility criteria is expanded tend to come from the demographic that now qualifies. Roughly 111,000 Manitobans aged 12-17 became eligible on Friday, the province said.
Alden Minuk, 12, said he’ll overcome his fear of needles, if only for a moment, if his vaccination can help end the pandemic.
“Well, because then I can actually see people and do things, so why not?” he said.
Minuk misses seeing his friends and getting together with them to play board games.
His mother, Susan Wingert, said she didn’t need to convince his son of the importance of vaccinations.
“Their father’s a physician, so he knows how much they’ve improved health, not just with COVID, but with polio and all of the other things that have basically been eradicated because of vaccines,” she said.
Wingert’s family is mulling a trip to Hawaii, once travel restrictions ease and it’s safe to do so. Her son getting his vaccine will make that trip a little closer to reality.