With restrictions looming, vaccine holdouts finally line up in Regina

Beliefs about vaccine safety and civil liberties buckled under family pressure and the threat of lost privileges.

Leader Post 3 minute read September 20, 2021

There was a fairly long line of people waiting at the walk-in COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Southland Mall on Friday, September 17, 2021 in Regina, a day after the province announced new COVID-19 measures, including proof of vaccination passports. TROY FLEECE / Regina Leader-Post

For months, the holdouts endured. Rising cases, crowded hospitals and pleas from doctors weren’t enough to change their minds. But in a province where government, families and the general public have run out of patience, the vaccine lines are filling up again.

In Regina’s Southland Mall on Friday, a steady stream of unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people stretched down the hallway. Some expressed no qualms about being there, like the Nigerian student who just got out of quarantine after arriving in Canada.

But others had long nursed concerns about vaccine safety or civil liberties that finally buckled under the threat of losing privileges.

One man, a 61-year-old health-sector worker who didn’t want to share his name, said he showed up on Friday partly due to the announcement that he would lose access to non-essential services without proof of a vaccine or negative test. The announcement from Premier Scott Moe on Thursday gave him the impression that “the man means business.”

“The privileges I would have lost, that’s the main thing. I like going to the theatre, and I like going to go into a restaurant. I like going into the pub and having a beer,” he said. “I like that stuff better.”

This is his first dose. Why did he wait? At first, it was apprehension that the vaccine might not be as safe as indicated.

“I didn’t want to rush into it,” he said. “I wanted to see what the results were.”

Later, he just felt like he didn’t need it. He also felt like vaccination is his choice and no one else’s. But now that the choice is that much tougher, he’s ready to cave. He admits that the policy Moe announced on Thursday seems to work.

“I’m not happy with it, but it was effective,” he said.

Still, he doubts it will be enough to bring the most devoted skeptics on board.

“They’re hardcore and I happen to know some of them,” he said. “Forget it. It’s not going to motivate them.”

For some, government had little to do with their decision to get vaccinated. A couple from Weyburn, who also declined to give their name as they waited for a second dose, said they gave in because of family pressure.

“They called us stupid, idiots — you’re going to kill everybody,” said the woman, explaining that some family members refused to come to her father’s 80th birthday if the pair attended without getting the shot.

Like the health-sector worker, they wanted to wait to learn more about safety, though they had a much longer time horizon.

I wanted to see long-term effects first, and that has to be about five years,” said the woman.

The husband said that the proof of vaccine requirement will likely motivate others. But he compared the policy to the actions of a “school bully.” He said he doesn’t trust pharmaceutical companies, or the health officials who have long advised that vaccines are safe. Why?

“Because of very convincing videos that have been on the Internet,” he said.