• Myrna Driedger

The Unmistakable Virtue of Vaccines

Published in the February 2021 edition of Lifestyles 55

by Myrna Driedger

Vaccines are one of the greatest gifts of our time. There is so much evidence and data to back up just how effective, essential, and beneficial vaccines are. Like many of you, I felt hope, happiness, and gratitude when the COVID-19 vaccine was announced. The amount of hard work, tireless effort, and world- wide partnership that went into this monumental medical advancement cannot be understated.

While there is reason to be exceptionally hopeful at this time, we must remember to keep our guard up against this virus. Now is not the time to relax and ease our vigilance. Please remember to use proper hand hygiene, maintain a physical distance with those outside of your household, wear a mask, and follow all provincial public health orders. Take all symptoms, even very mild symptoms, seriously. For a list of COVID-19 symptoms, check out www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/fundamentals/symptoms. Remember that when one member of your household is unwell, all members of the household must isolate. These public health precautions are tremendously difficult but we must remember that they are also tremendously important. Mentally, these necessary precautions have been a challenge for many. I urge everyone in need to reach out and seek help. There are resources available through the government of Manitoba website at: https://www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/bewell/ . Please share this information with all interested. Your mental health matters.

For over twenty years I worked as a nurse in the Winnipeg healthcare system. The lessons I learned as a nurse are ones that I still utilize to this day. Public health issues impact our communities, city, and province as a whole. Each year, the flu affects many Manitobans. Fortunately, we have access to a flu shot. I am sure to get mine every year and I encourage everyone to do the same.

Recently, with news of a COVID-19 vaccine, I couldn’t help but feel so very grateful. Grateful to all the front line workers, grateful to everyone taking public health precautions and following the rules, and grateful to all the scientists who have worked tirelessly for this tremendous advancement. That scientists around the world dedicated themselves to finding a vaccine and did so as soon as they did is an historic accomplishment!

This amazing COVID-19 vaccine is a huge step forward, just like the many vaccines that have come before. I’d like to shine a light on just a few of the other vaccines that have helped to improve our quality of life.

1950s: introduction of a polio vaccine, another polio vaccine would become available in the 1960s.

1960s: the first measles vaccine and rubella vaccine became available.

1980s: introduction of the Hepatitis B vaccine into school based programs; measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines were made widely available for infants; global eradication of smallpox due to vaccine.

1990s: Canada becomes polio-free due to vaccination; a chickenpox vaccine becomes available.

2000s: HPV vaccine is created to reduce the risk of cervical cancer in women; a shingles vaccine becomes available.

These are just a few of the many vaccines that have improved our quality of life on an individual scale and importantly, on a global scale, as well. Vaccines give us the opportunity to guard ourselves and our friends and family from a potentially serious health concern. They are an invisible shield that can enable the next generation to live without some of the difficult health issues of previous generations. Importantly, vaccinations reduce undue stress on our healthcare system and protect Manitobans.

The vaccine for COVID-19 is a testament to science. This pandemic swept the world quickly, impacting everyone. Leading scientists from around the world worked for months to create a vaccine and conduct thorough testing to ensure that it is effective and safe. What an accomplishment in a relatively short period of time! This vaccine is an important step in the battle against COVID-19. Thank you to all the hardworking people who have brought us to this point.

Check out the Province of Manitoba COVID-19 website for more information about the vaccine roll-out at https://manitoba.ca/covid19/

For those who haven’t already, I encourage everyone to get the flu shot.


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