Dr. Anju Anand

We’re all tired as physicians, health-care workers, and Canadians. All Canadians are tired. It’s been such a dark process and the vaccines offer this shimmer of light and some normalcy. The This is Our Shot campaign was inspired by grassroots organizations rallying together to get all Canadians their shot when it’s their turn with the goal of turning vaccine hesitancy into vaccine confidence.

In my spare time I’ve been working with a task force in terms of advocacy for the South Asian community. All physicians are doing their job because they want to help people. What my husband and I noticed over the course of the pandemic is that there are people who are disproportionately affected.

We identify with the South Asian community. We see the faces of our parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, in the community. It hit home that we need to help people who don’t have a voice. We’re in a situation where we do have a voice and so we need to use that to help others and understand the barriers so we can make a change.

Before giving advice on the vaccine and why you should get it, I would want to hear what people are hesitant about and the barriers. A lot of it is listening and understanding people’s fears and giving people a safe place to talk about those fears.

Just like everything in medicine, there is no treatment that you start without discussing and there is always someone who has a question or concern. Similar to counselling patients on their treatments, we’re there to provide reliable information and acknowledge what we know and what we don’t know and I think people respond well to that. We don’t have all the answers, especially in a pandemic. But the answers we have just need to be communicated clearly and I think people are receptive to that.

I chose to get the vaccine for my family and my patients. And I got it for a hope of normalcy so I can get back to a bit of a life that we had before COVID-19, and hopefully to stop all of the suffering from the separate pandemic that’s come to light as a result of COVID-19.

When people are hesitant, sometimes it’s worth asking them what they’re missing. Everyone is missing going out, hugging their family, seeing friends, just being able to do so many of the things we used to take for granted. There is not one person I’ve talked to who doesn’t miss a little bit of what we had.

I’ve always considered myself a kind person and COVID-19 has made me realize you have to stick to that. It has reminded me in so many ways that every life matters and I think that people unfortunately get so caught up in their own world that they forget there’s a world around them.

As an Indo-Canadian I am seeing this on many levels. I have family who got sick in India, we’ve had a lot of people here who have been affected by the pandemic in different ways. I’ve never felt racialized before the pandemic to be honest. It made me reflect on that in so many ways.

The pandemic is a good reminder for everyone to be kind. I will always remember, from COVID-19, that even in a dark time you can find something good and every person can help.

I might not change the world, but if I help one or two people and make their lives better, it’s worth it.

Dr. Anju Anand is a Respirologist at St. Michael’s Hospital and a representative for the This is Our Shot campaign, a movement to rally Canadians and encourage each other to replace vaccine hesitancy with confidence so we can end the pandemic together. Learn more about This is Our Shot here. Anju got her COVID-19 vaccine. Get yours.

As told to Ana Gajic. This interview has been edited and condensed.

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