On May 13, the B.C. government announced that everyone over the age of 18 would be able to book their vaccine appointments in the coming days. By May 16, many UVic students had already scheduled their appointments.
Aaron Yee is 19 years old and got his first dose on May 30 in Sidney. He booked his appointment as soon as he saw the notification pop up on his phone. With B.C.’s restrictions, Yee says he has not seen anyone outside of his small bubble in five months.
“Everyone should definitely go get the vaccine if you all want to go back to somewhat normal,” he says. “I’m sure we’re all looking forward to seeing our friends and family again.”
Like Yee, Kate Bourdon has also received her first dose. Bourdon is 19 years and was able to get her vaccine on May 6. According to the B.C. government, 40 per cent of people in the 25-29 age range and 36 per cent of people 18-24 have already received their first dose of the vaccine. Island Health has administered over 500 000 first doses.
Bourdon has worked at a local bakery throughout the pandemic. She was eligible for the vaccine through her employer.
“It was a sense of a weight off my shoulders,” she said. “I felt at ease because there was less to worry about and I would have less of a risk of getting the virus, transferring it to other people, and getting super sick.”
Bourdon says her employer followed health guidelines and ensured she was safe at work. Even so, there were two instances during the pandemic where Bourdon was potentially exposed to the virus while at work. None of the potential COVID-19 exposures resulted in any actual cases at the bakery.
For Yee and Bourdon, this fall will be the first time they study on campus even though they are going into their second year.
Although many universities in the U.S. have made vaccines mandatory, no post-secondary institutions in Canada have followed suit. The University of Lethbridge is taking a creative approach — they are holding a contest for vaccinated students. Nine students will win the grand prize and have their fall tuition and fees paid for. At Western in Ontario, vaccines will be mandatory for students living in residence.
In the Return to Campus plan, the B.C. government stated that vaccines would not be mandatory for students. The recent move to reduce the time between vaccine doses from 16 weeks to 8 weeks means everyone over the age of 18 will be offered both doses by August.
But as the fall quickly approaches, some students are wary about the possible risks. Bourdon said she is concerned that there will be no social distancing on campus and vaccines won’t be mandatory.
“I just don’t know what it’s going to look like,” she says. “But I guess more information will come, I’m a little bit torn on [the return to campus].”
Hannah Penner is also a UVic student and was born in 2001. She lives in South Surrey and booked her appointment for May 21. Although she is excited to be able to see family and friends again, she also says the vaccine represents a bigger milestone for her.
During the pandemic, Penner struggled with her mental health. She avoided looking at the case counts because they brought her mood down. She noticed in May that the positive vaccine news has contributed to her mental health improving and now regularly checks the vaccine numbers. Overall, she finds it easier to stay hopeful.
“It’s a relief honestly,” Penner says. “Partly it’s what it represents for me, me feeling safer and being able to not have to worry quite as much about getting COVID-19 or passing it to family and friends. But more than that…we are actually getting significant numbers of people vaccinated. We are getting closer to herd immunity.”
Penner, Yee, and Bourdon want to encourage other students to get the vaccine. Penner says that it can be easy to see disinformation about the vaccine on social media and feel fearful as a result, but she hopes people will research reputable sources and get their shots.
“It’s not just to protect yourself, it’s also to protect others and to return to normal or better than normal,” Penner said.