The City of Vancouver says a health-care clinic isn't authorized to give out flu vaccines in its underground parking lot and has given the clinic 30 days to shut down its operation.
South Hill Family Health Centre had set up the parkade vaccine clinic to respond to high demand for flu shots this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After receiving a tip about the operation, municipal staff sent South Hill an email on Oct. 14 warning them that using the parkade as a clinic "was not a permitted use of this particular space" and that it required the landlord's permission.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said getting immunized against influenza is more important than ever this year amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, the high demand for the vaccine and social distancing requirements mean doctor's offices often don't have the space available.
"We've already maxed out the people we can have in our clinic by having the essential appointments," said Dr. Rita McCracken, medical director of the South Hill clinic.
The parking lot clinic was their solution to providing the vaccine to its patients.
"It's better than doing it in a confined doctors office that's for sure," said patient Tyler Wilman.
City says no approval for clinic
The city says it sent an inspector to the site and discovered that it was breaching the property's lease as well as building bylaws.
In an email to South Hill, municipal officials wrote that they had discussed the installation of a mobile flu clinic in the back parking lot. "It seemed that had changed your mind about going forward with it," the email from the city reads. "I didn't think you would create this in the parkade instead without our approval. The parkade is only to be used for vehicle parking."
The City of Vancouver told CBC News in a follow-up email that the parkade clinic poses potential health and safety risks, such as carbon monoxide exposure. It also noted that the tenant has not received approval for the operation from Vancouver Coastal Health or from WorkSafeBC.
The city says South Hill has 30 days to comply with the bylaw and has advised them to cancel all upcoming appointments.
Trial run for a COVID vaccine
McCracken says South Hill decided to use the parkade to fill a gap in availability, especially for children under five years of age who cannot be vaccinated at pharmacies.
"I think that there is quite a gap for kids under five, just understanding how many vaccines are going to be missed out on because most family practices cannot be delivering vaccines the way they typically would."
She hopes that the flu vaccine season is a good trial run so that by the time a COVID-19 vaccine is available it can be delivered as fast as possible.