“Right arm or left arm?” asked Sara Noyes, 26, a nurse at Ottawa City Hall who administered my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on June 2.

“Left arm,” I replied. I’m right handed so I’d rather my left side be sore the next day.

I sat down next to her, and we chatted briefly about my comfort level with needles and if I had had any allergic reactions to vaccines in the past (no).

I was nervous, but also excited to do my part in combatting the virus that has disrupted so much of our lives in the past year.

She sanitized my upper arm, I felt a pinch, and it was over before I could register that it had happened.

As of June 4, 2021, more than 600,000 people in Ottawa have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Ottawa Public Health COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard.

Thirty-seven per cent of those people, including myself, were between 18 and 29 years old.

Total Number of COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Administered in Ottawa so far, Ottawa Public Health

I booked my vaccine on May 11, the first day that “Group Two” of essential workers, those who could not work from home, could book their COVID-19 vaccines. This list included grocery store, restaurant, and transportation workers.

Erik Hall, 21, who received the vaccine at the same time, said getting the vaccine is “a no-brainer.”

“I work at a bike shop so it’s a pretty good idea to get the vaccine. I work closely with a bunch of guys and most of them have gotten the vaccine so far,” he said.

I have been working at a local café in Hintonburg for three years now. Throughout the pandemic, I continued to work and serve the public. Despite following provincial guidelines by wearing masks, putting up plexiglass and ensuring there is no hand-to-hand contact between the employees and customers, the risk is always present.

Am I going to get sick from working with the public? Will my co-workers? Will we accidentally pass the virus to customers? To our roommates? Family members?

These are the questions I ask myself every day when going into work. I see my regulars more than I see my family or friends.

As someone with asthma and vulnerable family members who I could not see because of the pandemic, getting the vaccine was a monumental moment for me.

I asked Noyes what the general response has been from young people when getting the vaccine.

“The response has been amazing. People are so excited to come here and even people that are terrified of needles are happy to come in…because they know it’s for the greater good,” she said.

“I’ve even had people who have cried happy tears after getting the vaccine so it’s a really exciting time for sure.”

I certainly felt the same wave of emotion after I walked out of City Hall that night.

Knowing I have taken the first step in protecting myself, my coworkers, customers, and family members from the virus has given me a sense of hope, and most of all, relief.

The light at the end of the tunnel may be closer than it seems.