Delivering vaccines – and hope – to thousands of people

The best part of Cynthia Chung’s job is the relief she sees on people’s faces.

As a nurse with Ottawa Public Health, she’s spent months working to deliver vaccines – and hope – to thousands of people throughout Ottawa. 

“One patient… she was crying because she was so happy, so thankful, and so relieved that she was able to get the vaccine,” Cynthia says. “And that really stuck with me.”

“That’s really why we’re doing it,” she says. “To help protect the population.”

Cynthia got her start as a nurse in a local hospital. But then, she moved to Ottawa Public Health, eager to focus on preventative care.

“I saw, from the hospital perspective, how sick people can get,” she says.

As the first COVID vaccines arrived, Cynthia was sent into long-term care homes, where she spent long days covered in personal protective equipment.

“It was very hot!” she recalls.

“You wanted to make sure that you were doing right by everyone,” she says. “I wanted to know all the information.”

In the months that followed, Cynthia crisscrossed the city. From pop-up neighbourhood clinics to shelters, group homes, and a clinic designed to serve Indigenous communities, every day could bring a new location and a new set of challenges.

“We really went everywhere,” she recalls. Mobile clinics have even taken her to farms, detention centres, festivals, and workplaces to bring vaccines closer to people who need them.

“The pandemic never sleeps!” she says. “At the height of it, we were working 16-hour shifts. And we’d just work straight for weeks.”

“You give your all,” she says. “Every little project can make a big difference.”

After months of intense work to fight the pandemic and keep people safe, what’s Cynthia’s advice to anyone interested in public service?

“Do it!” she exclaims with a smile. “You can really make a difference.”