Over 4,000 COVID-19 vaccines doled out at Fraser Health pop-up clinics, which could pop up again

·3 min read
Hundreds of people lined up outside the Poirier Forum in Coquitlam, B.C., on Tuesday after Fraser Health announced a pop-up vaccine clinic.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Hundreds of people lined up outside the Poirier Forum in Coquitlam, B.C., on Tuesday after Fraser Health announced a pop-up vaccine clinic. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Pop-up vaccine clinics in the Fraser Health region had thousands of people lining up for a shot at a shot on Tuesday — and the health authority's top doctor says appointment-free vaccine clinics aimed at residents of COVID-19 hot-spot communities could pop up again.

Elizabeth Brodkin, chief medical health officer for Fraser Health, said the two clinics were announced last minute after health officials compared vaccine supply to the number of booked appointments at those locations that day, and determined they could open their doors to more people.

She said, in total, "well over 4,000 doses" were administered at the Poirier Forum in Coquitlam and the Cloverdale Recreation Centre in Surrey.

Fraser Health announced the drop-in clinics shortly after noon, saying the vaccines were meant for residents of high-transmission neighbourhoods in the region.

Some people in the four-hour lineup that snaked outside the Coquitlam sports complex admitted they didn't live in a neighbourhood identified as a COVID-19 hot spot.

But no one who spoke with CBC News at the Poirier Forum on Tuesday said they were turned away for living in another community.

WATCH | Follow the lineup in this time-lapse video from outside the Poirier Forum:

"The people that we are trying to target are people who live in those high-risk neighbourhoods, but our primary focus is on removing any barriers in the way of anyone who is eligible getting vaccinated," said Brodkin.

The number of people racing to the pop-ups could also have been due to Fraser Health announcing that people aged 30 and above were now eligible to receive a shot of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. Brodkin said this also factored into the decision to open the pop-ups.

In a statement later on Tuesday afternoon, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed the lowering of the age limit.

"As we receive enough AstraZeneca to add appointments at pharmacies, it will be made available to anyone in the province aged 30 and older," the statement said.

Brodkin said more pop-up clinics could take place in the Fraser Health region if vaccine supply outstrips the number of booked appointments.

"Anywhere, anytime that we have vaccine availability, we will open that up in order to target as many of those high-risk neighbourhoods and individuals as possible," said Brodkin.

The decision to open up Tuesday's clinics to everyone aged above 30 was met with criticism on social media as people called for better clarity over who could go where and when for their vaccine.

People who attended the clinics told CBC they heard of them via word of mouth or through social media and not through communication from Fraser Health.

Brodkin said the fact the clinics gave many people a chance to get their first dose was important.

"Judging by the number of people who arrived for those clinics, and the amount of vaccine that we were able to put into arms yesterday, I think the word got out and most clinics were very successful," Brodkin said.

Information about any future pop-ups, said Brodkin, will be available on the authority's website and social media platforms, and would be shared with local media.

Social media posts also expressed concerns that some essential frontline workers are still waiting for their first shot.

Brodkin said Fraser Health is simultaneously immunizing frontline workers, including people working in high-risk industries such as farming and food processing.

She said the authority is "about halfway through" vaccinating first responders and teachers.