If some Windsor-Essex residents cannot get to a vaccination clinic, the vaccination clinic will come to them. That is the thinking behind a new pilot project.
On Wednesday, a city bus packed with nurses, medical supplies and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines made stops across the city, offering vaccines to residents in certain areas in a pop-up style fashion.
The project, called Destination Vaccination, was put together by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) and Transit Windsor in an effort to boost the vaccination rate in key areas with low rates.
"We've been told they don't have time to come, they're unable to get to those locations. It's just not convenient enough," said Kim Helmer, manager of WECHU's mobile vaccine clinics.
"By coming to them, we can make it more convenient and they're more likely to get vaccinated."
The latest data from WECHU show that the vaccination rate continues to lag in some parts of the region.
Among the seven areas of Windsor-Essex deemed COVID-19 "hotspots" earlier on in the pandemic, the first dose coverage rate is 63.2 per cent versus 68.9 per cent for the region overall.
Some of the highest positivity rates in Ontario
Three of those hotspots — N9C, N9B and N9A — are seeing higher proportions of COVID-19 tests come back positive than almost any others in the province.
According to data released by the research organization ICES, the three areas have the second, third and fourth highest weekly positivity rates in the province. N9C, the postal code that includes Sandwich Towne, has the highest rate among the three local postal codes, at 16.8 per cent.
Carina Luo, a geo-spatial data analyst with the University of Windsor, noted the higher COVID-19 rates in areas with lower vaccine uptake.
She said the N9C, N9B and N9A postal codes have a high percentage of low-income residents.
"One explanation is people living here are more likely to work in such a service industry," Luo said. "There is more exposure to COVID-19 risks."
Luo said the neighbourhoods have a higher population of new immigrants and there may be more vaccine hesitancy due to language or cultural barriers.
'We can make it more convenient'
On Wednesday, the mobile clinic was scheduled to stop at the corner of Wellington Avenue and University Avenue as well as Mic Mac Park, near the Prince Road entrance.
Ward 2 Coun. Fabio Costante, who represents Sandwich Towne, said he could not conclusively say why there are higher rates of COVID-19 in his area versus others but he did confirm that is the reason for the mobile vaccine clinics.
"The whole idea is to have these pop-up units be accessible within walking distance to a lot of our neighbours and neighbourhoods here in Sandwich and the west end," Constante said.
Jasmine Perez, a resident in one of the hot spot neighbourhoods, received her second dose at the clinic.
"The pop-up clinic is definitely more convenient. Absolutely, just because with little kids, we don't have time to be going out or finding babysitters because we don't have them," Perez said.
Ryan Jordan received his second dose while the bus was parked at the University and Wellington road stop.
"I noticed some advertising on the road and I just came into the bus. It was nice, easy-peasy and got my second Pfizer shot," Jones said.
Jones said that despite differing opinions, he believes everyone should get vaccinated.
While Destination Vaccination is a pilot project, WECHU CEO Nicole Dupuis said it could continue depending on its success.
"We are excited about the potential of this partnership to deliver vaccines to areas with lower vaccination rates. Depending on uptake, we are optimistic that this can be continued for the long-term," Dupuis said in a media release.
The mobile vaccine clinic will be in Leamington on Friday between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. at two locations in the N8H postal code area.