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Calgary shelters ramp up vaccine rollouts

Last Updated Apr 21, 2021 at 7:49 pm MDT

CALGARY (CityNews) — For people experiencing homelessness, the pandemic has been nearly impossible to safely navigate.

As Alberta’s vaccine rollout ramps up – Calgary’s shelters are trying to make sure no one is left out.

“We’ve done about 55 clients already, then we’ve got a partnership with the Shoppers Drug Mart across the street to support our staff, and we’ve got close to 100 staff vaccinated to date, and we’re doing about 22 vaccinations a day for clients,” said Kathy Christiansen with Alpha House Calgary.

Vaccinations are ramping up at Alpha House, the Mustard Seed, and the Calgary Drop-in Centre.

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But even with vaccines becoming more available, there are still particular challenges facing those experiencing homelessness, including transportation to appointments, identification, and vaccine hesitancy.

“The close proximity of some of those anti-lockdown protestors, and they have been offering food and supplies to the homeless population for quite some time while very loudly talking about ‘the vaccine’s not safe’, ‘don’t get the vaccine’, ‘COVID’s not real’,” said Chaz Smith with BeTheChangeYYC.

There are also issues for the organizations trying to help.

“Some of the things that we really love, that are significantly meaningful to clients and staff, had to be put on hold, we had to scale up a whole bunch of different sites to accommodate social distancing, rather than operating at one shelter we were often operating at three different locations,” said Christiansen.

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Despite those difficulties, vaccines are still delivering more than immunity.

“It’s been very emotional, it’s a celebration, it’s been a long haul and we’ve been waiting for this and it’s happening,” said Christiansen.