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'Creative' options sought as vaccination rates remain slow in east Calgary

A health worker administers a dose of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine to person at shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, May 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

CALGARY — The province is slowly inching towards the target of 70 per cent of eligible Albertans having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but there are still some problems in Calgary.

Two regions of the city — the lower northeast and east — are the only two areas under 60 per cent coverage, and while gains have been made in the upper northeast it appears that access remains an issue.

Recently, a mass vaccination clinic at the Village Square Leisure Centre administered more than 2,000 shots over the course of a weekend. Similar clinics have also been held, with more planned in the coming weeks, throughout northeast neighbourhoods in a bid to boost the rates.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said they are looking at all available options, but they could also use a bit of assistance.

“I would prefer it if Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services joined in that creativity, I feel like they’re quite risk-averse and that it is difficult for them to think out of the box,” he said. “I heard that they’ve characterized the 2,500 shots at Village Square as ‘not enough’, which is ridiculous to me.”

As Nenshi has said before, he stressed this is not an issue with hesitancy and people not wanting the vaccine. He said people may not have schedules that align with typical working hours for clinics and pharmacies, and they may also lack transportation options.

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“Lotteries are one thing, but if you’re working two or three jobs you just can’t make an appointment long in advance. We need clinics that are open late in the evening or early in the morning, we need them to not require appointments.”

He added that targeting faith communities will also be crucial, and this should be a major priority in order to help us all get back to normal once the pandemic passes.

“I’m really happy to see the uptake in upper northeast Calgary where I live, but in east Calgary — northeast and southeast Calgary — it’s still lower than it needs to be,” he said. “And remember, the longer it takes folks in these areas to get their first dose, the longer it takes to get their second dose because they do have to wait. So, we want to make sure we get all those first doses in but also that anyone who’s eligible for a second dose is getting it now.”

Lists of available locations to get a COVID-19 vaccine are available on the Alberta Health Services and Alberta Blue Cross websites.