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Drop-in clinic aims to boost vaccination rates in east Calgary

Last Updated Jun 4, 2021 at 11:35 pm MDT

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — While vaccination rates are soaring around most of Alberta and the end of the COVID-19 pandemic seems to finally be in sight, there are still some areas lagging behind.

Notably, the eastern communities of Calgary are still behind the average when it comes to vaccination rates as neighbourhoods in the northeast and southeast have rates that are about ten per cent lower than other areas.

In order to help, a drop-in clinic will be open at the Village Square Leisure Centre through the weekend specifically for these residents.

“The sooner we all get vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to doing the things we love and we miss. And we’ve got to hit those numbers, we’ve got to hit those numbers on first doses and we’ve got to hit those numbers on second doses,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

The clinic will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, with first doses of Pfizer vaccines being given out to anyone aged 12 and older.

It was made possible through a partnership between several groups, including the City of Calgary and the Calgary East Zone Newcomers Collaborative.

“We are working across the city to ensure that anyone that is having problems because of COVID, whether it’s food security, whether it’s income support, employment, mental health needs, and of course right now with the vaccine that you’re able to actually access that,” said Anila Lee Yuen, president and CEO of the Centre for Newcomers.

Nenshi said people cannot be blamed for the slightly lower rates, as numerous barriers are in place.

“I firmly believe that’s not really because of vaccine hesitancy, it’s not because people are anti-vaxxers or they don’t want their vaccine, it really is an issue of access,” he said. “There are folks who are isolated, very recent arrivals for example, seniors who may be living alone, so it’s important for us to be able to address that.

“I know you’ve been doing it already, but this is the weekend to bring your (relatives), to bring the people you know who are less connected, or perhaps less privileged.”

The issue of lower vaccination rates in the area has been mirrored by the higher rates of infection throughout the pandemic, as Nenshi and others who spoke at a press conference on Friday at the leisure centre pointed out how many people in the communities are frontline workers who are on the job for long hours or have multiple jobs.

“Even when most people were working from home last spring, the traffic patterns in northeast Calgary hardly changed. Because people had to go to work,” Nenshi said.

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“It’s very difficult for them to find the time to get to a mass vaccination centre,” added Dr. Annalee Coakley, physician lead at the Mosaic Refugee Health Clinic. “Other issues are the language barrier, transportation barriers — where they’re reliant on public transportation — and often their only day off is Sunday.”

It’s hoped that this one clinic can nip many issues in the bud at the same time, by operating for longer hours, being very accessible in the community, and not requiring appointments for people who need their first dose.

“Or they lack those digital skills to be able to search the internet, find those online bookings, and then book appropriately,” said Dr. Coakley.

There will be representatives on hand who can speak a total of more than 70 languages, so no matter where people may hail from, they should be able to get the proper information and support.

Ward 5 Councillor George Chahal says this is very important for him, urging others in the community to help anyone who needs assistance going to and from the clinic and if all goes well this can be a regular feature for the area.

“Tomorrow, let’s aim to get 5,000 shots in arms so Sunday we can do it again. And then next week, we can do it again all over northeast Calgary.”