Hailey Parker was all set to get her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Cayuga on July 29.
But when she saw a Facebook post from the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit about a pop-up clinic in Delhi on Saturday, the Caledonia resident quickly rebooked her appointment and made the 50-minute drive west “to get the vaccine as soon as possible.”
Within five minutes of parking at the arena, Parker got her second shot — and a big dose of relief.
“It’s obviously important for my own health, as a person who was immunocompromised through all this. I could have got really sick from the virus,” said Parker, 34.
“(Getting vaccinated) was a way of protecting myself, but also protecting my family. I want to get back to seeing my friends and family again on a regular basis, and just for things to get back to normal.”
The head of Haldimand-Norfolk’s vaccine task force hopes more people follow Parker’s lead and sign up for their first or second shot at a pop-up clinic.
“We’re trying to add some additional clinics more last minute, where it’s actually easier for some people to commit to getting right (online), getting an appointment and going the next day,” said Norfolk paramedic chief Sarah Page.
While the health unit now routinely administers more than 10,000 shots per week, Haldimand-Norfolk’s vaccination rate for residents under 50 is slightly behind the provincial average.
Locally, 71 per cent of adults have received at least one dose, compared to about 76 per cent across Ontario.
The issue is not appointments going unfilled. Thanks in part to the provincial booking system sending people in urban centres to mass vaccination clinics at the Delhi and Cayuga arenas, clinics are booked to capacity.
The health unit hopes offering weekend and evening appointments will attract more adults and teens who have had issues booking a vaccine appointment or are confused about when they are eligible.
“Quite frankly, it changes randomly and it changes quickly,” Page said of provincial eligibility rules. “The best that we can say is by the 28th of June, anyone who is over 18 is eligible for a second dose after 28 days.”
The demand is there. A health unit tweet last week advertising “lots of spots available” at a pop-up clinic in Cayuga was followed 45 minutes later by an update saying the clinic was full.
Clinics are scheduled for Friday at the Dunnville Community Lifespan Centre, and Saturday at Gateway Church in Caledonia and the Simcoe fairgrounds.
As for those who still need a first shot, Page said there is no need to wait.
“You’re eligible at every clinic,” she said. “Anyone over the age of 12 right now is eligible.”
Page said teens and post-secondary students will soon see social media posts advertising clinics at local pharmacies and sharing the message that getting the shot greatly reduces their risk of getting seriously sick from COVID-19.
“We’re still aiming to have them vaccinated before they go back to school,” she said.
In fact, Page said based on current projections, everyone in Haldimand-Norfolk should be able to get their second dose by the end of September.
That is welcome news to residents like Parker, who said the accelerated vaccine rollout has her feeling “extremely optimistic” the pandemic is in its waning days.
“There’s so many people around me now who already have their second dose, which is amazing,” she said.
J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator