By Danielle Pereira
Residents of the Houses of Providence received their first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine today as music played in the halls and joyful staff looked on.
Father Gerald Fitzgerald receives the vaccine.(Photo: Houses of Providence Activation Team)
It was a major milestone for the residents, their loved ones and Houses of Providence staff, who weathered an outbreak in the first wave, isolation and visitor restrictions.
“I feel butterflies in my stomach and so much joy in my heart,” says Pat Colucci, Administrator at the Houses of Providence, a long-term care residence with 288 beds located on the grounds of Providence Healthcare. “With approximately 95 per cent of our residents being vaccinated, it gives me so much peace and appreciation knowing our residents and staff are moving a step closer to socializing and spending time with families and friends as they choose.”
After provincial officials announced the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine would soon be available to long-term care home residents, staff and essential care partners, the Houses team mobilized quickly to begin outreach to residents and their families to provide information about the vaccine and obtain consent for those interested in receiving it.
“The Houses team, which includes our residents, are amazing,” says Melissa Morey-Hollis, Vice President of Clinical Programs at Providence Healthcare. “Everyone is working together to create a safe environment that supports the well-being of staff and residents and today’s vaccination planning and administration is just another example of that.”
The Moderna vaccine was also administered to some of the Houses staff and essential care partners on Wednesday during a pop-up vaccination clinic.
A vaccination team administered vaccines to residents at their rooms on each floor, unit by unit. In addition to the logistical planning for administering the vaccine, the team also created a positive experience for residents during their vaccination.
Residents heard music through the hallways as they received their vaccine, thanks to the efforts of the Houses Activation Team, which supports resident activities, entertainment and virtual visiting.
Members of the Houses vaccination team (Photo: Houses of Providence Activation Team)
“I wanted to get the vaccine because the whole world is getting it and it should be a good health measure,” says Father Lennon, a resident in the Houses. “It also got me up in my chair dancing today from the loud music playing in the background.”
Father Gerald Fitzgerald, a resident in the Houses of Providence, has been anxiously waiting the arrival of a vaccine since the virus first appeared.
“My background is in biochemistry, so I know the history and understand the process by which immunity is established by vaccination,” says Fr. Fitzgerald. “I am really excited that the result of billions of dollars of research funds in so many countries is finally arriving in my arm in a few moments time. My congratulations to the staff of the Houses for carrying off this procedure so flawlessly.”
Beverly Philipps, who has worked with the Sisters of Good Shepherd for 25 years, is an essential care partner for eight Sisters who are residents in the Houses. She says the last several months have been challenging with visitor restrictions, but getting the vaccine gives her hope.
“I have so much empathy for seniors in long-term care and I can see the toll that isolation has on the elderly, and all of us really. I hope and pray that this will be the answer and we can get the number of cases down.”
Seniors have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the more than 4,700 deaths in Ontario related to the disease, more than half were residents at long-term care homes. Unity Health Toronto has been working to support long-term care and retirement homes across the city during the pandemic to share knowledge and provide support with infection prevention and control processes, and more recently with vaccination efforts for residents, essential care partners and staff.
“As long-term care homes continue to suffer the enormous burden of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m incredibly relieved and grateful that today we are able to administer a highly effective and safe vaccine to our Houses residents, staff and essential care partners,” says Dr. Ashley Verduyn, Chief and Director of Medical Affairs at Providence Healthcare and Medical Director at the Houses of Providence.
“Today, I’m feeling hopeful for an end to the isolation and loneliness long-term care residents have experienced and the anxiety, grief and loss endured by families and the staff and physicians of long-term care.”