The Philippine Star-backed OneNews.PH site has reported that three Filipino Canadians were among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Canada.
The three received the vaccine for coronavirus disease developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE.
Canada rolled out its mass vaccination campaign on December 14.
Anita Quidangen, a personal support worker, was congratulated by Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
Quidangen was vaccinated at the Michener Institute, part of the University Health Network Safety Services in Ontario, donning a face mask, on December 14.
“It’s an honor, thank you very much,” she said. “I’ll continue to do my job as a PSW.”
The other Filipino healthcare workers who received the first dose of the vaccines were Cecile Lasco, also a PSW, and Lucky Aguila, a registered practical nurse, OneNews.PH reported, citing OMNI Television.
“This is a big step forward in our fight against the virus, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” Trudeau said in a tweet accompanied by a CBC News video of Quidangen during the vaccination.
A diminutive Quidangen was shown sitting down and getting the jab in her left arm. She smiled after taking the shot amid cheers and applause from those who witnessed the development, giving two of them an elbow bump.
Ford also tweeted a photo of Quidangen, saying it was “amazing” to watch “the first person in Ontario (and) Canada to receive the vaccine.”
“Anita has spent years rolling up her sleeves to protect our province, and today, she didn’t hesitate to find a new way to do so. She represents the best of the Ontario spirit,” Ford noted in a statement.
Canada’s news outlets reported that the first recipient of the COVID-19 vaccine was 89-year-old Gisele Levesque, a resident at the Saint-Antoine long-term care home in Quebec City.
Levesque got her shot at 11:25 a.m. while Quidangen was vaccinated at around 12 noon.
“It was very emotional for me,” said Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu, who witnessed it in Quebec. “I cried.”
Canada’s Ambassador to the Philippines Peter MacArthur said Quidangen made history.
Ford and MacArthur both disclosed Quidangen had been “working tirelessly” amid the pandemic.
MacArthur stressed Quidangen would “sometimes” report “on double shifts as a #healthcarehero.”
Quidangen has been a personal support staff at the Rekai Centre at Sherbourne Place in Toronto – a long-term care facility – since 1988, Ford and MacArthur stated.
COVID-19 has infected more than 468,862 people and killed 13,553 in Canada alone as of December 15.
Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on December 9.
The Canadian government recently amended its contract with Pfizer and BioNTech so that it would deliver up to 249,000 doses in December.
Most Canadians are not expected to get the vaccine for months.
“We are dealing with an incredibly competitive global environment,” said Anita Anand, Canada’s minister of public services and procurement. “It’s very much the long game here.”
Canada has contracts with six other vaccine makers and is currently reviewing three other vaccines, including one by Moderna that Canadian health officials said could be approved soon.
Canada has ordered more doses than needed for Canadians, 10 doses per Canadian according to the government. Canada eventually plans to donate excess supply to impoverished countries.
People in Britain and the U.S. are also starting to receive coronavirus vaccines.
The encouraging developments come as the coronavirus continues surging across much of the world.
Meanwhile in the U.K., a Filipino nurse who got infected with COVID-19 in the line of duty was among the first to be given the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine.
In an interview with “The Chiefs” on One News / TV 5 on December 11, Leo Quijano said he has been working as a nurse in the southern part of England for almost two decades.
The vaccine was first administered to a 90-year-old grandmother Margaret Keenan by Filipino nurse May Parsons on December 8.
Quijano specializes in kidney ailments, including dialysis. In June, he tested positive for the virus.
“I was positive but I am still alive…There (were) many Filipino frontliners who got infected with COVID-19, especially during the first few months of the pandemic,” he said.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) had expressed hopes that Filipino health workers will be among the priorities for COVID-19 vaccination in the UK.
POEA administrator Bernard Olalia said it is “very important” that Filipino health workers get utmost priority because they are at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19.