As an infectious disease specialist working with patients every day, I was immediately at risk of getting COVID. When they were about to declare the lockdown back in March [of 2020], I already had it. I still have long-term consequences, I still can’t smell 100 per cent, so I may have permanent damage from COVID-19.

I’ve been working with refugees for about 20 years. I’ve travelled around the world, I’ve been to places where children die one after the other from vaccine-preventable diseases. I’ve seen children die of measles, whooping cough, tetanus, polio. Vaccines save lives.

Those who have seen children die of vaccine-preventable disease usually aren’t hesitant to get vaccines. But for people who may not have seen the burden of disease, like someone who has never seen someone die of a vaccine-preventable disease or of COVID-19, it may not occur to them how serious it is and that people die that otherwise would have lived.

I also recognize why some people may be hesitant to get the vaccine if they’re from a racialized group or they’re a new immigrant. The history of the way Black and Indigenous people have been treated in this country is very poor. We know that. There were very unethical things done to certain communities and so there is a lack of trust.

While there is hesitancy against getting vaccinated because people don’t trust the government, there’s also the fear of COVID-19 and the fear of being left behind, so it’s complex.

It’s very important that we get communities that have been disadvantaged vaccinated. Many people don’t speak the language, they don’t understand the system or know what their rights are. We need community leaders to be champions and help people understand the importance of the vaccine and where they can go to get it. I think that’s really critical.

To me COVID-19 is real and it has a huge impact on people. I’ve been vaccinated and I was really happy and relieved. I have elderly parents, and in my positions I see lots of different families. Even though I’m using PPE, I don’t want to risk transmitting it to someone so I was very grateful to have the vaccine because it takes away some of the stress I had about giving it to other people.

Dr. Anna Banerji is a Pediatrician at St. Joseph’s. She got her COVID-19 vaccine. Get yours.

As told to Mackenzie Patterson. This interview has been edited and condensed.

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine here.