Oral Health Group recently featured the story of an Ontario dentist’s trip south to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot, written by Michael Carabash. Here are some highlights from the article, and please check out the original piece at oralhealthgroup.com for more.
On December 28, 2020, I received a text from Dr. Gurbaz Sandhu (GP, London and Port Elgin). The photo was Dr. Sandhu’s vaccination record, showing he had received the COVID vaccine. “I think I’m the first dentist in Ontario to get it,” he typed. “I’m in Dallas.”
Then it made sense to me: Dr. Sandhu has dual Canadian-US citizenship and is licensed to practice dentistry in Ontario and Texas. He received the shot in the USA.
So how did it all come to pass?
Despite it typically taking years to develop an approved vaccine, it only took months for Pfizer and Moderna to do it using this new technology. Did they rush it? Was it safe? The results of mass clinical trials showed well over 90% effectiveness when booster shots were taken weeks apart – much higher than the typical 40–60% effectiveness for annual flu vaccines. But would the general public accept it enough to roll up their sleeves? For Dr. Sandhu, it was a no-brainer:
I trusted the science and scientists to keep us safe. So when I saw the 80-year old head of the US Cornavirus task force, Dr. Anthony Fauci, get the Moderna vaccine, I knew it was safe. I had no doubts after that.
Like most dentists, Dr. Sandhu’s practices were closed for the end-of-year holidays. He was in London, ON, on Christmas Eve with his family before the lockdown. His sister – a dentist in Texas – called and mentioned that she was going to get the vaccine on Monday, December 28 (the Texas State board had sent an e-mail to all their dentists, advising that they could get the vaccine that day).
Seeing a small widow, Dr. Sandhu proclaimed: “That’s it. I’m doing this”. He put pressure on himself to do it. Partly because he lived in a multi-generational household; partly because he wanted to take a lead role and set an example for his patients and his teams.
He drove down to Michigan, and then, on December 27, Dr. Sandhu hopped on a plane to Dallas, Texas. He had no issues crossing the border as he is a U.S. citizen and holds a U.S. passport.
I was a little worried about catching COVID-19 in the U.S., but I went prepared and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw at the airport: except for the heavy traffic at the airport, people were wearing masks and socially distancing.
On December 28, Dr. Sandhu met up with his sister at 8:00 am at the Methodist McKinney Hospital. That was one of the many sites that had the vaccine available for health care workers and the elderly. But when they showed up, they were told that they had no more vaccines and to return the next day.
Dr. Sandhu was initially upset. “What if I kept coming back and they kept running out? I came all this way and was starting to doubt whether I could even get it.” But then his sister obtained a list of other vaccination sites. Over 1,000 sites were identified, as well as the number of Modern vs. Pfizer vaccines available. He noticed that Purple Hearts Primary Care Services in Grand Prairie had 1,800 Modern vaccine shots available. It was only a 45-minute drive. He knew the area and felt it wouldn’t be busy. So he hopped in his Dodge Challenger rental and hurried over to Grand Prairie.
When he finally showed up that day, it was around 3:00 p.m.
“Thankfully, there wasn’t a big lineup of cars. Just a large medical RV with about five nurses walking around the parked cars, administering the vaccine and also doing COVID19 tests. They were very organized.”
He lowered his car’s window and asked an older man wearing a mask how long he had been waiting in his car. “About three hours,” the man replied, somewhat frustrated. The was troublesome, as Dr. Sandhu was due back in Canada.
That’s when a nurse came over to Dr. Sandhu’s car and asked what he does. “I’m a dentist,” he replied, showing his US passport. That was enough to put him at the head of the line. She handed him some paperwork, told him to download the CDC’s V-Safe After Vaccination Health Checker App on his phone, and 15 minutes later, she injected the vaccine into his arm.
He couldn’t believe it. He got the Moderna vaccine! Just like that. “See you in a few weeks!” the nurse told him, and then she left. Totally free for all U.S. citizens. A sense of pure bliss came over him. He felt privileged to get it. And proud enough to tell his family, friends, and the author of this article!
The next day, Dr. Sandhu was home back in Canada. His left arm was slightly sore at the injection site. But that was it—no other side effects. The soreness went away after a day. He was sure to be tested for COVID-19 when he was home (and tested negative).
For the next two weeks, the V-Safe App asked him how he was feeling, and he entered in his responses. The information gets collected by the CDC.
Was Dr. Sandhu the first Ontario dentist to get the vaccine? “Yeah, maybe even in Canada.,” he says. “Hopefully, I’ll get my second shot in Canada.”