A Brisbane doctor is one of the first Australians to have received two doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine and his message to fellow Queenslanders is that it's as easy as getting a flu jab.

GUIDE: How COVID-19 vaccine will roll out in Queensland

"The worst part was waiting outside in minus-20 degree temperatures to get into the vaccination building," surgeon Phil Rowell told The Courier- Mail from downtown Toronto, where he lives while training to become an orthopaedic sarcoma surgeon.

Doctors Phil and Holly Rowell with their children George, Violet, Fred and Hugh.
Doctors Phil and Holly Rowell with their children George, Violet, Fred and Hugh.

As a surgeon with access to ICU at the Mount Sinai Hospital, Dr Rowell was in the top priority tier to receive the lifesaving needles.

He received the first jab in the beginning of January and the second five weeks later rather than within the preferable three weeks due to a shortage of the vaccine.

"Okay, I'll admit I wouldn't have wanted anyone to punch me in the arm on the day of the injection but apart from a slightly sore arm I had no ill-effects. I had no fatigue and that was the case for most other colleagues who received the shot. It was like getting a flu or a tetanus needle," he said.

The 38-year-old father of four, who grew up in Pullenvale, now carries a card in his wallet that was given to him at the vaccine hub - proof that he has been protected against the virus that has killed more than 2,418,000 people across the globe.

Canada has suffered badly through the pandemic with 826,924 cases and more than 21,000 deaths.

"I can understand the people of Queensland being excited to finally have the vaccine arrive in the state. But for me I didn't feel the rush that many would have felt as it has always been on my mind that my wife Holly and our four children are not vaccinated," Dr Rowell said.

Holly Rowell is also a doctor who worked as an anaesthetist in Queensland.

Phil Rowell is training to become an an orthopaedic sarcoma surgeon in Toronto.
Phil Rowell is training to become an an orthopaedic sarcoma surgeon in Toronto.

The 37-year-old, who comes from Ashgrove, is a stay-at-home mum during the family's stint in Ontario.

"As a lay person who is under 40 and fit and healthy and from Australia I am at the bottom of the list when it comes to being vaccinated here in Canada. Phil and I chose to come to Canada in the middle of the pandemic as it was important for him to gain the experience he needs in bone and muscle cancer, so that he can bring that knowledge home to Brisbane," she said.

The family moved overseas in September so Phil could complete 12 months of sub-specialty surgical training.

"It's been tough being in lockdown in freezing temperatures and homeschooling the children. I do feel a little jealous when I see the weather in Queensland and people allowed their freedom. This past few months have made Phil and I realise there is no better place to live in the world than Queensland and we miss it. The kids are proficient ice skaters and have skied. For kids that had never seen snow they have had quite an experience here," Dr Rowell said.

The family plan to return home in July and she hopes to be vaccinated then.

"We will likely have to quarantine and we will as a family. Children have not been included in the Pfizer trials so the kids won't be getting the jab," Dr Rowell said.

The couple says that they can see that Canada has made some mistakes through the pandemic.

"There has been a shortage of the doses and second vaccines have often been postponed. It has been said that vaccinations will be done by September. I've been disappointed to see that some our GP friends have not yet been vaccinated as they are not considered top priority. That seems wrong to me as they are in the community dealing daily with people with respiratory problems," she said.

The Rowell family has enjoyed a different lifestyle in Canada but “can’t wait to get home and see our family and friends”.
The Rowell family has enjoyed a different lifestyle in Canada but “can’t wait to get home and see our family and friends”.

"Also, the logistics of vaccinating those in aged care is not easy. Teams have taken the doses to aged care centres but with refrigeration it requires time and work. This is a totally new experience for everyone involved. My second vaccine was a smoother process than the first as teams get used to the operations," Dr Rowell said.

Late last week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised an "enormous increase" in doses coming to Canada of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines

"One thing I want to say is that the arrival of a vaccine can give the wrong idea that life will be back to normal. It is of course a monumental time but for many ordinary people they will have to wait most of the year before they receive their jab. It's not an instant fix and the disappointment can add to COVID fatigue," Holly said.

"We can't wait to get home and see our family and friends and the kids are desperate for lamb chops. Yes, we can get them here but they are Australian lamb and cost a fortune. We wish everyone in Queensland well as the vaccine is rolled out there," she said.

 

 

 

Originally published as Queensland doctor's message after COVID jab


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