Sunday , 16 January 2022
Meredith Kerr took a celebratory selfie outside the SPAN gym after getting her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on April 20. She wanted to get a photo inside the clinic, but was asked not to out of concern for the privacy of other people there to receive their vaccines.

KERR: SPAN Gym feels entirely different as a vaccine clinic

I bought a vanilla dip donut from the drive-thru at Tim Hortons on my way home from getting my COVID-19 shot. The multi-coloured sprinkles and sugary icing seemed appropriate given my excitement at having my first dose of Pfizer induced immunity against the virus that has wreaked havoc with my life over the past year.

Getting myself booked to receive the vaccine was harder than I wanted it to be. After a half dozen attempts over several days the week I became eligible, I finally got an appointment at the AHS clinic in Cold Lake at the end of this month. I was frustrated to have to drive an hour and a half away to get the shot, but the next closest appointment was in Wainwright and I wasn’t going to pass up a chance.

The day after I finally got in the queue, I used the update my booking link in my confirmation e-mail to look and see if there were any appointments closer. I was pleasantly surprised to see one for 9:40 a.m. on April 20 at the SPAN Gym in St. Paul, and startled Bear (the dog) awake by yelling ‘DIBS’ in my office chair.

It’s amazing how the feeling of a space can change with how it’s being used. It’s the same gym I’ve gone to for COVID-19 testing three times for myself, once for my husband, and twice for each of my kids since the start of the pandemic. When we went for COVID tests, I could feel not just my anxiety but the anxiety of the nurses in their protective gowns, masks, and face shields.

Going for the vaccine was completely different. The masks and face shields were still being used, but I could see the crow’s feet beside the nurses’ eyes get deeper when they smiled. There were still arrows on the floor directing traffic, but the sense of ‘get in and get out’ urgency was gone. People relaxed in chairs reading their phones and making small talk if they recognized someone behind a mask while they waited for the 15-minutes after their vaccines.

It wasn’t the same sensation of palpable joy and giddy laughter I remember from Halloween parties and dances with my husband in the same room five years ago, but the 18 people I counted in chairs were calm and peaceful, not hurried and tense.

The shot itself was fine. My left arm is a little bit sore, but at the moment when I got my vaccine, it pinched less than my 18-month old’s fingers when she wants my attention.

Most of the questions I had about the vaccine were answered by either my family doctor at a prenatal appointment last month or Dr. Kristin Klein from AHS when I interviewed her last week, but I did ask the nurse at my appointment if getting the vaccine changed anything as far getting my diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) booster before this baby is born. There may not be a ton of data about COVID-19 in newborns, but there’s plenty about whooping cough and all of it makes me place a high priority on that DTaP booster.

I’m still 15 weeks away from my due date, and it’s just enough time to make me hope I can have it all.

I’ll have to wait at least a month now before receiving any other vaccines, and then at least two weeks after the DTaP before I can get a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine won’t be offered for 16 weeks, but both my other kids were more than fashionably late. If this one is too, I may even get to squeak in my second dose before the birth.

I’m not happy with the federal or provincial governments, but for the first time in over a year, it feels like there might be an end to this insanity. Get your shot.

About Meredith Kerr

Meredith Kerr moved to St. Paul for a career in journalism and morning radio in 2014 expecting to stay for six months to a year. Since then, she has put down roots in the form of a husband, a mortgage, two babies, and a poorly behaved dog. She continues to work as a reporter until such time as she finishes her book and becomes fabulously wealthy from the royalties. Meredith also serves as a member at large on the St. Paul Library Board and volunteers as a Beaver leader for the 1st St. Paul Scout Group.