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Pop-up vaccine sites for those living on the streets

Last Updated May 21, 2021 at 8:54 pm MDT

CALGARY — Bringing the doses directly to patients.

The Alpha House Society is running pop-up vaccine clinics for clients living on the streets.

Health advocates are pushing for more, arguing the people most at risk for COVID-19 still face barriers. And, recent data shows the hardest-hit regions are seeing the city’s lowest vaccination rates.

“I interacted with 20 to 22 patients, not a single one of those patients did not want to get the vaccine,” said Dr. Gabriel Fabreau, a General Internist a the Peter Lougheed Centre. “Many had been booked and waiting, it was weeks out, many didn’t know how to navigate, they just did not know how to get it. Many wanted to get it from their family physician who they trusted.”

READ MORE: Dynamic approach is needed for vaccination of homeless population: Advocates

Calgary’s upper northeast has about a 34 per cent vaccination rate, the lower northeast and Calgary-East are seeing similar rates, while the highest income region, Calgary-Elbow, has the highest vaccine uptake.

For Alpha House, the clinic with Alberta Health Services hits areas where they know people are sleeping rough.

Outreach teams say some homeless are not comfortable going into shelters for a vaccine.

A family doctor in Skyview says he’d like to run a pop-up clinic.

WATCH: CityNews’ Crystal Laderas reports on one northeast family physician asking for vaccine doses so he can run his own pop-up clinic. 

“The booking time is quite long for some people, like recently, yesterday somebody told me we are booking into July now, the close by pharmacies that we have. But mostly 14 days is the wait time we are encountering,” said Dr. Preet Pal Singh Sekhon.

Dr. Sekhon also likes The Alex’s Community Health Bus model and would like to see something similar in his community.

“We’ve already started with our bus going out to sites, the first site that we went to was to one of the Drop-In Centre satellite sites. That was really handy to have that there, just to have that there for the vaccine, for the storage of the vaccine, to maintain the integrity,” said Dr. Kerri Treherne with The Alex. “Then you don’t have to rely on the inside shelter space as much, it gives you a little bit more autonomy. So, we’re definitely interested in having more clinics with the bus.”

The Alex says its first priority is the vulnerable population, but it is interested in expanding to others.

For now, it’s an approach many others are hoping for.

“I don’t want to contemplate what it says about our society when we know that there are regions of our neighbourhoods that are on fire, and that we are not trying to overcome the barriers to help save lives,” said Fabreau.