Dr. Harlow Hollis’ COVID-19 Vaccination booth
Like all things not entirely accessible to the masses (yet), the Covid 19 vaccine has reached the elevated status of a superhero, complete with skeptics and groupies and the foibles associated with fixing a widespread problem like the pandemic. For those who have yet to receive their vaccine, rest assured the process will be simple and almost pain-free, especially for those who have the good luck to land in Dr. Harlow Hollis’ booth.
As a retired plastic surgeon with a valid medical license, Derma Spa’s founder Dr. Hollis volunteered to vaccinate the public as soon as the call for help in distributing the vaccine was put out by the local health authority. He’s currently providing the vaccine four days per week at the Victoria Conference Centre clinic and the rest of the time you can find him on the golf course or Costco — each of these activities holds a special place in his heart.
We took a moment to talk to Dr. Hollis about the ins and outs of working at a Covid 19 vaccine clinic.
Q: Why did you choose to get involved with distributing the vaccine to the public
A: I did it because of my background as a plastic surgeon and having some abilities in using a needle and syringe. Having injected literally millions of needles in my lifetime I felt like I could contribute to the Covid vaccination program and will continue to do so as long as there is a need. As a doctor I feel strongly about helping people stay healthy and as a doctor I feel strongly about being a part of the process of helping people stay healthy. It’s really neat to be on the forefront of change after a difficult and scary year.
Q: What’s it like inside the vaccine centre?
A: Well, the public should have no concerns whatsoever about going to the centre. There is a rigorous sanitization and hygiene program and everyone inside wears a mask and shield. There’s a zone for the nurses who are drawing the vaccine from the shipment order and distributing it into the syringes and labeling them for us injectors, as the vaccine needs to be used within a few hours of it being drawn and prepared for use. The injectors — a mix of nurses and retired doctors — start each shift with a team meeting to address protocols and any updates on information coming from the Health Authority and then we get to work.
Q: What can people expect when they arrive at your booth?
A: When a client comes to my booth I have a heart to heart conversation with them for a few minutes to tell them about it and what a non-event it is. After the first shot you will be 92 per cent protected, after the second shot your protection goes up to 96 per cent. It starts working right away and reaches 92 per cent about two weeks after. I probably talk more than the other injectors because I’m a small town boy from Pugwash, Nova Scotia. And having been a surgeon I know people’s apprehensions and can talk to them about what to expect in a soft way so their blood pressure is relaxed and they’re relaxed and ready to rock and roll.
Q: Have you seen any negative reactions to the vaccine?
A: There are four anaphylactic stations in the room for anyone who might have a reaction to the vaccine but to-date I haven’t ever seen them used — everyone who I’ve treated since I started doing this in March has had a normal and uneventful response to the vaccine and all the people coming through the centre seem delighted and relieved to be protected by the vaccine. Some have even brought chocolates for our injecting team!
Q: What does the injection feel like?
A: The pain of the needle is like a mosquito bite. The frequent response is, “Are you done yet?” because they can’t even feel it. Anyone who is worried about pain shouldn’t because it’s barely there.
Q: Anything people need to know if they are getting their vaccine and want filler ?
A: At the moment, the authorities inform us that there is a low risk of a delayed inflammatory reaction, less than 1% and ideally people wait two weeks before or after their vaccine to get any filler. For any patients that are high risk such as those with an auto immune disorder, are on chemotherapy or immuno modulatory medication or those with a history of sensitivity to dermal filler we recommend waiting 4 plus weeks then you are good to go. If you want to know a bit more, please review my colleague Dr. Kailey Winton’s blog post here.
Q: On a personal level, what does being a part of this process mean to you?
A: It’s nice to be a cog in this wheel! I certainly didn’t invent the vaccine but as a surgeon I have the capability of contributing with my work efforts to get people protected and it’s a good feeling that you are able to help prevent people from being ill while allaying fears. A lot of people have been terrorized by this disease and it’s good to be a part of taking that load off their shoulders.