When Monique Dupriez saw her family, friends and colleagues lining up to get vaccinated, she was adamant: There was no way she would be getting a shot.
“I had a reaction to a vaccine when I was a child and I lost a daughter who reacted to a vaccine, so I was hesitant to take it,” Dupriez said quietly.
The patient attendant at Montreal’s CHUM hospital doesn’t like to talk about the death of her daughter — she was only two — but that loss left a painful scar.
“I’m not anti-vaccine. I’m in favour of the vaccine for everyone else — just not me.”
Enter Dr. Ingrid Marchand, who had rushed to get her shots as soon as she was eligible.
“We need to focus on the fact that we need to put ourselves aside and think about the community and think about the general fight against the pandemic and the virus,” she said.
Marchand and Dupriez have worked together in the emergency ward for nearly 15 years. When one of Dupriez’ supervisors suggested she speak to Marchand about the vaccine, she went.
“She seemed very knowledgeable about the vaccine,” said Dupriez, smiling at Marchand. “She told me she cares for me.”
Exhaustion in the ER
Marchand says that after 18 months of working in a pandemic staff are just plain tired.
“When we see that most people that go to intensive care are unvaccinated it is difficult for me to understand. It seems obvious that this is a necessary tool to fight the pandemic and the virus.”
The doctor says she gently tries to persuade unvaccinated COVID-19 patients to get the shot.
“I think we don’t want to get into judgment and condemnation. I think we just need to keep talking to each other and explain to each other, try and answer questions and try to convince them that it’s a good thing for them and for everybody else.”
That’s the approach she took with Dupriez.
Respecting fear and apprehensions
“We had a few discussions over a few weeks,” Marchand explained. “We took the time. It was very amicable, very friendly.”
“We talked about why she was apprehensive. What was she really afraid would happen with the vaccine?
“We talked about how it went for everybody else. We talked about all the positive effects of the vaccine, the statistics. We talked about all of that.”
They were emotional conversations.
There were tears.
I think we don’t want to get into judgment and condemnation. I think we just need to keep talking to each other … try to convince them that it’s a good thing for them and for everybody else.– Dr. Ingrid Marchand, on speaking with the unvaccinated
Marchand realized Dupriez had legitimate fears about the vaccine but, after hours of discussion, she’d been convinced.
She’ll be fully vaccinated by the time the government’s deadline for health-care workers comes on Nov. 15.
Dupriez is happy with her decision — she says she took it for herself, the people close to her and her patients — but she was apprehensive right up until the end.
After speaking with Marchand, it took her another month to finally book her appointment. “I felt like I was playing Russian roulette.”
And she didn’t get the jab just to keep her job. Dupriez is set to retire in December anyway. Before talking to Marchand, she had planned to retire early rather than be suspended.
Marchand is satisfied her appeals paid off.
“I gave her a huge hug and told her I was really proud of her,” she said, giving Dupriez a squeeze and affectionately rubbing her back.
Deadline extension the right decision, doctor says
There are still tens of thousands of unvaccinated health-care workers in the system in Quebec.
Quebec had planned to impose a vaccination mandate for health-care workers and suspend without pay those who didn’t comply. But on Oct. 13, two days before the initial deadline, health minister Christian Dubé backtracked, announcing the province would give the workers until Nov. 15 to get the necessary shots.
At the time the extension was announced, 93 per cent of Quebec health-care workers were fully vaccinated, but it still left almost 22,000 facing suspension, and Dubé said the system wouldn’t be able to handle losing so much staff.
Marchand believes the government made the right decision by extending the vaccine deadline to allow hospitals to prepare for the mass suspension of unvaccinated workers.
It’s not clear if that extension will convince many to get the jab, but Marchand says it at least buys time for more success stories like Dupriez’s.
Stories she says will happen if people are treated respectfully and given the information to change their minds. Threats are not the solution, Marchand insists.
“I think that it’s just giving more time for communication. I think that we need to keep the dialogue going and try to answer all the questions.”