Having mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics on the road in Sudbury this past summer appears to have paid off, with more than 6,700 vaccine doses administered through these clinics.
Two Sudbury Transit buses made the rounds at 70 different community locations in the past three months.
Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD) has been using the buses as mobile clinics since mid-summer.
The first bus rolled out in July, and a second vehicle was added in August.
Nastassia McNair, the program manager involved in vaccine program planning at PHSD, said the idea came about after it was apparent that attendance was dropping off at some of the larger vaccine clinics.
"So as we were starting to see some of our attendance drop in our mass immunization clinics, we wanted to get creative and try and reach the population where they were at, to improve access in areas with lower vaccine uptake, or in popular community locations, where we would maybe have increased visibility. So people would see us and then opt to get their vaccine. So that's kind of where the idea originated," said McNair.
She added that the success of the program came early with partnership consultations involving the municipality which provided the buses, along with consultations involving primary health care providers and social services.
"First of all, I think the partnership was a success in itself to be able to get this off the ground and running,” said McNair.
“It was able to move throughout our entire service area. So we were able to go across our entire district Sudbury, Manitoulin, and across Sudbury East.”
She said convenience was a key consideration in trying to make it easier for people to get access to vaccines as well as reducing the amount of travel for ordinary citizens.
"We were able to attend a variety of different locations; so grocery stores, shopping mall parking lots, local parks, different workplaces, First Nations communities, and really trying to expand our reach; locations where we may not have seen as high of an uptake, there may not have previously been vaccine clinics opportunities, really increasing that access and decreasing travel. So we saw a lot of individuals come out for their first doses on the mobile bus this summer and into September, which was really exciting. And we saw a lot of vaccine uptake among that young adult group. So that 18 to 48 range. So a lot of uptake using this method," said McNair.
PHSD also used one of the mobile units to go to city schools in September and October as the health unit was focusing on vaccinations for youth aged 12 to 17, which was regarded as a successful initiative with 20 schools visited.
In actual numbers, McNair said 3,065 individuals took their first vaccine dose on the mobile bus and an additional 3,594 were able to get their second dose of vaccine on the bus.
Added to that were 53 persons who were able to get their third vaccine dose. In all, more than 6,700 doses.
As of this past Friday, Oct. 22, the buses have been pulled off the road for the time being, said McNair.
"As we move into cooler weather and can't really predict what's going to happen in Northern Ontario, we are going to be parking the buses for the late fall and winter. But they are available if we choose to resume or need them," she said.
There is the possibility that if warmer weather creeps back into the North, or if there is a demand in some remote areas, that the buses can be reinstated sooner rather than later, said McNair.
In the meantime, PHSD will focus on pop-up clinics and more mass vaccination clinics such as those held at the Carmichael Arena, on Bancroft Drive.
Weekly updates on future clinics are available on the health unit website.
Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com