IWK extending vaccination clinic after last-minute lineups drain supply

·3 min read
Steven Marenick of Halifax gets a COVID-19 vaccine at the IWK clinic. The clinic is being extended after hundreds of people showed up on Friday for last-minute shots.   (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)
Steven Marenick of Halifax gets a COVID-19 vaccine at the IWK clinic. The clinic is being extended after hundreds of people showed up on Friday for last-minute shots. (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)

The IWK Health Centre is extending its walk-in vaccination clinic after a swell of interest last week — and hospital staff wonder if university vaccination rules could have contributed to the lineups.

The clinic was supposed to close Friday, but extra vaccine had to be ordered twice that day to keep up with demand.

In all, 335 people received their shots Friday. That's about double what the clinic had been averaging in the last few weeks.

"Nobody expected to see those kinds of numbers," said Mary-Beth Rowe, the manager of COVID-19 response areas at the IWK. "The demand definitely far exceeded what our expectations were."

Last week, several Halifax–area universities announced vaccines would be mandatory for staff and students. Those who don't get shots will need to be tested frequently.

Young adults in line

While the IWK isn't tracking data — that work is being done by Nova Scotia Public Health — Rowe said it appeared many in line were in the typical age range for university.

"[There was] definitely an increase in the university-age population, for sure," Rowe said. "We're wondering if perhaps that may have played a part in the increase of numbers."

Brett Ruskin/CBC
Brett Ruskin/CBC

Public Health last updated the vaccination data by age group on Friday.

At that time, those aged 20 to 24 had the lowest rates in the province. In that bracket, 57 per cent were fully vaccinated, with another 15 per cent partially vaccinated.

Rowe said she knew by 10 a.m. Friday there weren't enough doses to meet the demand. A call went out for more vaccine and, within an hour, she knew another request would be needed.

By 3:30 p.m., the clinic had to turn people away because they had no vaccine left.

At that point, Rowe said it was clear more clinic days were needed at the IWK site.

"I think it's a positive thing that we're seeing people come out, and the fact that they're in that 12-to-30 age group is a great thing," she said.

Nurses give up vacation to run clinic

Rowe arrived at work Monday morning thinking she would struggle to find staff. But she said 13 people offered to take the shifts immediately.

Some, she said, are nurses who came out of retirement to help. Others are offering to cancel their time off.

"I've actually got some staff who were slated to go on vacation who have given back their vacation so they can come back and work. Because, like myself, this is a passion for them and they want to give Nova Scotians the opportunity to be vaccinated."

The IWK walk-in clinic will offer Pfizer-BioNTech shots from Wednesday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to those who have a valid ID and health card.

Rowe says out–of–province students and international students are welcome.

Rowe is reminding those who had Pfizer as their first shot to wait 21 days before their second. Those who had Moderna must wait 28 days before they can receive a Pfizer dose.

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