'You could see the virus start to spread': More pop-up vaccine clinics coming to north end

·4 min read

Those living in the city's north end will get more opportunities to visit a pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinic on Aug. 10 and 12 in an effort to vaccinate more of the area's residents.

Approximately 150 people were vaccinated when pop-up clinics were set up in priority neighbourhoods in mid-July to vaccinate more people ahead of the province scrapping all COVID-19 health measures on Friday, according to pharmacist Jason Steeves, who organized the clinics.

Steeves, who owns the Pharmasave on McAllister Drive and organized the clinics that are separate from those run by Public Health, previously told the newspaper the vaccination rates are low in north-end neighbourhoods. He said only 30 per cent of eligible people in the Crescent Valley neighbourhood had received their first jab as of the beginning of the second week in July.

"We're hoping to open it up to a few more people if there is interest in the community but probably run it on a slightly smaller scale than we did before," Steeves said Tuesday. "We'll do what we need to do as long as we need to do it, but we're not going to stay there all day for people who may or may not come."

The first clinic will be held on Aug. 10 at the Nick Nicolle Community Centre. On Aug. 12, a clinic will be held at the Crescent Valley Resource Centre. While the first clinics allowed for walk-ins, these will be by appointment only.

These clinics are not organized by Public Health and were instead spearheaded by Steeves.

The motivation behind the pop-up clinics was due to a concern that as restrictions began to lift, residents could become vulnerable to COVID-19 if it happened to take hold in those communities.

"In July, before the province went green, our messaging was, 'Hey, you need to get your numbers up so that you're protected, and your neighbours are protected.' Hopefully, that message will persist as we go back there and people will roll up their sleeves and get their vaccines," Steeves said.

Even if those neighbourhoods move from a 30 per cent to a 50 per cent vaccination rate, it's not adequate to reach herd immunity, said Steeves, adding he was pleased with the turnout at his clinics in July.

"You could see the virus start to spread," he said. "Hopefully, the measures that we've taken in New Brunswick – being one of the safest areas in all of North America – are enough to keep them from being exposed to it."

Tamara Kelly, executive director of One Change Inc., said from what she has heard, many people in the community working in public-facing jobs have been vaccinated, although she admits she only has anecdotal information.

Some barriers to getting vaccinated are caused by community members not having access to the internet to book appointments, she said. But overall, she thinks the comfort level with the vaccine is "growing."

Department of Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane said Public Health doesn't have the vaccination rate for individual communities, such as the north end. Instead, it can only provide percentages based on health zones.

When asked whether the low vaccination rate provided by Steeves is a concern now that there are no mandated COVID-19 rules and the case count is beginning to rise, Macfarlane did not respond as of press time.

On Tuesday, Public Health reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 over a two-day reporting period in Zones 1, 3, 4 and 5.

Macfarlane did provide data Tuesday on the number of people who were vaccinated via the province-run mobile clinics in the city in recent weeks.

“We are very pleased with the pop-up vaccination clinics," Macfarlane wrote in an email. “We are seeing a lot of first doses administered at these clinics, and we are thrilled to see New Brunswickers getting vaccinated.”

On July 23, a total of 73 doses were administered at a mobile pop-up clinic, with 27 per cent of those administered as first doses.

At the Saint John Bowlarama on July 19, the pop-up clinic administered 88 doses, with 33 per cent of those as first doses.

Robin Grant, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal

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