‘All hands on deck’ as Toronto’s #DaysofVaxtion clinics pushes for 90 per cent vaccination rate – Toronto Star
By Irelyne LaveryStaff Reporter
Sun., Sept. 19, 2021timer4 min. read
updateArticle was updated 8 hrs ago
Toronto’s #DaysofVaxtion campaign came to a close Sunday after 92 COVID-19 immunization clinics ran over a four-day push aiming to help the city reach a 90 per cent vaccination threshold.
Micro clinics, planted in areas with low vaccine coverage or areas at a high risk of the virus, operated at subway stations, public schools, malls, parks, a community centre and more.
“Things like this are awesome because you basically have all hands on deck — from the TTC to Toronto Public Health,” said Julie LeJeune who, as a vaccine engagement lead, spearheaded efforts in the downtown west cluster to reach out to vulnerable communities, as part of a $5.5-million grant awarded by the city in April.
“That said, we do have a ways to go. We really want to reach a 90 per cent vaccination rate so we do have some more work but I’m really encouraged that we’re getting there,” LeJeune added.
While other regularly scheduled clinics also ran in the city, residents were able to get the jab on the final day of the campaign in special locations such as Kensington Market and Parkdale Collegiate Institute on Jameson Ave.
“It’s a pretty amazing feeling when you help someone get the vaccine,” LeJeune said.
Gurme Tenzin, a vaccine ambassador in the downtown west area, said around 45 people got vaccinated at the Parkdale clinic as of 4 p.m. on Sunday, while others were still making their way to the location to also get the jab before it closed. He and three other vaccine ambassadors worked at the clinic during the last day of the campaign.
Tenzin said he felt “happy” as he provided nearby residents with information about the clinic and the vaccines. “I feel proud.”
Clinics were chosen using a data-based approach to continue to remove barriers for Torontonians and bring access to areas that are ingrained in everyday life — such as the subway.
The Kensington Market clinic Sunday operated out of a TTC bus parked near Bellevue Square Park. As crowds enjoyed one of the last weekends of summer, dining and exploring the market, several individuals hopped on the bus to get their shot.
One woman said she was getting her second shot at the clinic. She had held off initially on vaccination, due to misconceptions about getting the COVID-19 vaccine while breastfeeding, she told the Star. Her doctor informed her she should get the shot, so she had her first dose at the end of August.
Two other individuals, both men in their late 30s, told the Star they were getting their first shots due to the implementation of a vaccine passport that will begin Sept. 22.
“I don’t want to be refused if I’m going to a bar or restaurant, so I thought it was time,” said one man, who identified himself as an Irish citizen living temporarily in Toronto.
The campaign also brought eight clinics to Scarborough on its third day — four at malls, one at Centennial College, a hospital and the TAIBU Community Health Centre, a non-profit organization established to serve the Black community.
In total, 26 clinics operated in Scarborough since Thursday, where 2,393 vaccines were administered, according to Michele James, vice-president of people and transformation at Scarborough Health Network. Community health partners such as the seniors association Care First also collaborated on the operations.
James said the network anticipates it will surpass 3,000 doses administered by the end of the weekend.
“Wave four is here and we know that. From the hospital side, we don’t want to see an increase in patients coming in, we don’t want to see severe disease, we don’t want to see death,” James said. “So, that’s our only motivation — to keep this community as safe as possible.”
During Scarborough’s #DaysofVaxtion clinics, James estimates between 260 to 320 staff and volunteers, not including vaccine ambassadors, were involved.
While visiting three of Scarborough’s campaign clinics on Saturday — Bridlewood Mall, Birchmount Hospital and Centennial College — James was able to see residents of all ages get their first dose, including a family of six who got the jab together.
While previous vaccine initiatives have involved DJ’s, balloons and food trucks to bring “hype” to getting the jab, the atmosphere at the Scarborough’s clinics remained calm and professional.
“I think there’s a time and place for that but there’s also a time and place for just meeting people where they’re at and recognizing that a lot of the folks that have taken this long to make the decision, it’s for a reason,” James said. “But everyone that left thanked the team.”
Although the #DaysofVaxtion push is wrapping up, the clinics in Scarborough are scheduled to keep running.
Mayor John Tory and Joe Cressy, chair of the Toronto Board of Health, also visited a clinic location Saturday at Olive Square Park.
“We’re in the last mile of our vaccination campaign and the goal of fully vaccinating 90 per cent of eligible Torontonians is within reach,” Cressy said.
A full list of all public COVID-19 vaccination clinics can be found here.
The Last Shot is an occasional series examining what it will take to reach the unvaccinated and move us past the pandemic.
With files from Olivia Bowden
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