Riley Oldford was jabbed with a dose of the Pfizer vaccine Thursday morning, making him the first youth in the territory to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said.
Once fully vaccinated, Oldford, 16, said he will feel much more comfortable hanging out with his friends and travelling to see family once it’s safe to do so.
For the past year, Oldford has been in full lockdown. He said his cerebral palsy doesn’t typically affect his day-to-day life, however, the disorder puts him at higher risk of complications if he were to contract COVID-19.
Sharon Oldford, Riley’s mother, said the past year has been a challenge for the whole family.
Riley normally flies frequently to Calgary for medical travel, but continuing to do so throughout the past 14 months would have been too big of a risk.
As such, Riley hasn’t been able to be properly re-fitted for his leg braces. Considering that he’s a teenage boy with frequent growth spurts, the family is looking forward to Riley getting back to his regular appointments, his mother said.
Plus, an entire year without seeing friends face to face is a long time for anyone, particularly a teenager, Sharon said.
“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
As a high school teacher, Sharon comes in close contact with a lot of kids and takes extra precautions to not bring any additional risk of infections home with her.
She said the recent COVID-19 outbreak and school closures have been especially stressful.
Knowing Riley is on track to be fully vaccinated will greatly reduce the family’s anxiety, Sharon said. It allows “not to every day be thinking and worrying about the ‘what ifs.’”
Not only is the likelihood of Riley contracting COVID-19 lessened by his vaccination, the impact if he were to catch the virus is also significantly reduced, “so (our lives) can be quite a lot more normal,” she said.
Though Riley was the first, he was joined by 72 other Yellowknife youth aged 12 to 17 Thursday afternoon at the Centre Square Mall clinic.
The clinic continues Saturday and Monday for those not currently isolating. Another clinic for those isolating, but without symptoms, will open Wednesday.
To sign up, families can email CPHO@gov.nt.ca requesting a Pfizer vaccine, and the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer will evaluate each case to consider access.
If anyone has questions about vaccination, NWT Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA) spokesperson David Maguire urges residents to contact healthcare providers to access proper and up-to-date information on vaccinations.
“We would love to talk to people and tell them what the truth is. What they read on social media is not always the truth,” said Maguire.
With youth groups now eligible to receive their vaccines, Maguire stressed the importance of all NWT residents taking advantage of the available doses.
“I’m vaccinated. Riley is vaccinated. I encourage others to do the same,” he said.