A drive-thru vaccination clinic could open in northeast Calgary as early as this week as the push to get more Albertans vaccinated against COVID-19 continues.
The clinic is just one measure to come out of a partnership between the provincial government and local community groups and agencies to help improve access to the vaccine.
Targeted mobile and walk-up clinics are also being set up to increase vaccination rates in the northeast quadrant.
Organizations who work in the northeast say vaccine hesitancy isn't any more prevalent than in other parts of the city and that the problem has always been more around access to vaccines for people who can face multiple barriers, from language barriers to finding the time while working multiple jobs, which can often involve shift work.
"We know vaccine uptake has been lower in upper northeast, lower northeast and east Calgary," said Calgary-Northeast MLA Rajan Sawhney, who also co-chairs the Calgary COVID Care Table, set up as a partnership between the provincial government and local organizations and community groups connected to different ethno-cultural communities to remove barriers to access.
"Sometimes it's simply a matter of timings and the locations of the clinics that are available that just aren't convenient for people who live there who do shift work or may not have access to a vehicle or have other barriers," said Sawhney.
Sawhney said language barriers can make booking an appointment a tough ask for some individuals and families.
Anila Lee Yuen, CEO of the Centre for Newcomers, is another co-chair of the COVID Table. She also chairs the Calgary East Zone Newcomers Collaborative, made up of more than 17 groups that have worked across both groups.
"In the early days of COVID we spoke a lot about vaccine hesitancy but where the big barriers really come are more around access," she said.
Lee Yuen said the northeast has unique issues, including people working multiple jobs with little to no flexibility like shift work and night shifts.
She said mobile outreach clinics, walk-in clinics that don't involve any registration, can help access alongside the new drive-thru clinic.
Lee Yuen compared the vaccine push to getting out the vote in marginalized communities.
"It's very much like running a campaign where you say 'it's your right and here's how to do it'," she said. "Removing as many barriers as possible."
Lee Yuen said posters are being made up in 72 different languages as part of a communications drive to let different communities know about the location and time of the clinic.
"And if you still have barriers we can send an Uber, we can work with Calgary Transit, we can do different things to make sure people can get to the clinics," said Lee Yuen.
The new clinic will remain in place to allow people to access second doses of vaccine in the weeks and months ahead.
The location of the drive-thru clinic is still being finalized and could be ready as soon as later this week.