Interior Health wraps up final first-dose vaccination clinic for marginalized in Kamloops

·4 min read

A final vaccination clinic for Kamloopsians who are homeless or living in social housing was held on Friday afternoon (March 19) at the Crossroads Inn, downtown at Seymour Street and Sixth Avenue.

Those receiving the shots noted feeling more protected from the virus.

“The big thing is anxiety. It’ll alleviate that a little bit [and] I think it will do the same for other people,” said Harry Brennan after receiving his shot.

Brennan, 63, who lives at a nearby ASK Wellness housing project downtown, said he is not a fan of needles, but noted he barely felt this one. He said he doesn’t socialize too much, but adopted mask use before it was mandatory and will continue to wear it as required.

Jesse Lindelauf, 38, said getting his vaccine brought relief. He feels once he has both shots, he will be more confident to get back into his volunteer work.

Lindelauf, who lives at Henry Leland House downtown and volunteers his time at the Mount Paul Food Centre in North Kamloops, said he adapted easily to pandemic protocols.

“I’m kind of used to isolation, so it was kind of almost relieving to me,” Lindelauf said with a laugh.

In order to vaccinate Kamloops’ homeless and marginalized populations, Interior Health has been holding vaccination clinics around town at the various social agencies and shelters.

Gaudenza Ramunno, an Interior Health nurse who works at the city’s two supervised drug-use sites, told KTW about 20 such clinics have been held for this high-risk population, with staff sometimes visiting multiple destinations in one day.

She said they have vaccinated about 350 residents and 150 outreach staff — having utilized a strategy of vaccinating both residents and outreach workers at each agency to build trust and convince skeptics the vaccine is safe.

Having had her vaccine, ASK Wellness outreach worker Abby Grinberg has been kept busy going to all areas of town to get the word out on the clinics to homeless individuals and educate them about the vaccine.

“Lots of folks have questions about it and they always ask, ‘Did you get yours?’” Grinberg said, noting those answers and their participation in the clinics can be reassuring for people.

ASK Wellness Society executive director Bob Hughes said it’s incredible to see the number of vaccines that have been delivered into the arms of clients, people who can often have a mistrust of the health-care sector. Workers like Grinberg, he noted, have been imperative to the effort.

Mary Garman, 70, who lives at the Crossroads Inn, was skeptical of receiving the vaccine at first, but opted to get one on Friday thanks to some convincing from Crossroad support worker Christine Leicester.

Garman has had multiple trips to the hospital recently and is considered at high risk of contracting COVID-19, a point Leicester stressed.

An Indigenous elder, Garman told KTW she was assured she was safer after receiving the vaccine.

The three-hour vaccination clinic began at about 1 p.m. on Friday, with a small lineup of people gathering outside the Crossroads to receive the Moderna vaccine.

Friday’s clinic was a catch-up event to vaccinate people that were missed at previous events.

Ramunno administered vaccines on Friday with overdose prevention nurse Bailey Neil, who was excited to be taking part in her first vaccination clinic.

“The last three months I’ve been working with the street nurse [Chereise Norwood] doing this,” Ramunno said. “Chereise and I have been doing clinics non-stop — with the help of students, of course. We’ve got students over at public health, so it’s been a blessing in that way.”

The clinics have been set up in partnership with Kamloops’ various social agencies at numerous shelters and motels where agencies have clients.

Ramunno said the clinics have been very successful, noting public health and each social agency they partner with have done a phenomenal job organizing their clients and the clinic.

Friday’s endeavour came together in under a day.

When it comes time to administer second doses — which is required within four months of the first shots — Ramunno said they will contact individuals and their affiliated agencies, based on contact information collected the first time around.

The clinics ensure this high-risk population has expedited access to vaccines as Interior Health has been seeing an increase in the number of the city’s homeless testing positive for COVID-19.

“There wasn’t an official outbreak declared, but we were seeing an increase in positive cases since we were doing a lot of testing with those populations,” said Rae Samson, Interior Health’s manager of clinical operations for mental health and substance use.

Sampson said homeless individuals and those living in social housing can be more susceptible because they live a communal lifestyle and often don’t have the means to maintain social distancing.

Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week