Mobile clinics still a vital tool in push to get more Albertans immunized against COVID-19

·2 min read
Mobile vaccination clinics like the one pictured at The Immigrant Education Society in Forest Lawn this week bring COVID-19 vaccines to people who have a hard time accessing them. (Dan McGarvey/CBC - image credit)
Mobile vaccination clinics like the one pictured at The Immigrant Education Society in Forest Lawn this week bring COVID-19 vaccines to people who have a hard time accessing them. (Dan McGarvey/CBC - image credit)

Mobile vaccination clinics that target specific communities still have a vital role to play when it comes to getting more Albertans immunized against COVID-19.

While the van-based clinics might not be vaccinating huge numbers, they are reaching communities where uptake has suffered due to a long list of barriers.

A group of newcomer and social organizations along with the municipal and provincial governments have been trying to overcome some of those hurdles in the push to lower COVID case numbers in Alberta.

They say every shot counts.

"We serve newcomers and low income Calgarians," said Sally Zhao, CEO of The Immigrant Education Society in Forest Lawn, the site of a mobile vaccination clinic running on Thursday and Friday.

"It's about protecting themselves, their loved ones, their community and the health-care system," said Zhao.

Zhao says travelling to a vaccination clinic isn't always possible for some people. Then there are language barriers and other hurdles that can make accessing a shot difficult.

Dan McGarvey/CBC
Dan McGarvey/CBC

"People who don't speak English very well are nervous to go downtown or to a big centre to get vaccinated," she said.

And while the numbers aren't that high, barely reaching double digits per day at this latest clinic, Zhao says the people they are reaching are often the people who need a shot the most.

Medical graduates from the Alberta International Medical Graduate Association (AIMGA) are on hand at this clinic to act as interpreters, explaining the vaccine's benefits and the vaccination process to people in their own language.

Zhao says that can make the difference between someone getting a shot or not.

"We address any questions they have and any concerns they have about vaccines," said Faiza Noor, who speaks five languages, including Punjabi and Arabic.

"Once they know we have a medical background, it makes them really comfortable," said Noor.

The provincial government says the mobile clinics have been a successful initiative but there's still lots of work to be done.

Dan McGarvey/CBC
Dan McGarvey/CBC

"We've had success getting the rates up, particularly in the upper-northeast," said Rajan Sawhney, Alberta's Minister of Transportation and MLA for Calgary-North East.

"But it's even more important now because people who are hesitant and even complacent, people who've waited, are now starting to come forward, especially in light of the restrictions exemption program," Sawhney said.

"Some of those folks that are sitting on the fence are making the decision to get vaccinated, and having a mobile option is very important because you're bringing vaccines into the community."

Sawhney also praised the work of the Calgary East Zone Newcomers Collaborative, the organization responsible for making the mobile clinics a reality.

You can find a list of mobile vaccination locations on the City of Calgary website.

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