VacciVan takes to streets and parks of Park Extension
Montreal parks usually garner ideas of days out with the family or playing sports with friends, but rarely that of vaccinations. Health authorities changed that this week by approaching their vaccination campaign in Park Extension in a new and creative manner.
Last Tuesday the CIUSSS West-Central Montreal launched its VacciVan campaign at Howard Park. The program sends a truck filled with vaccines and medical professionals into the community to set up pop-up vaccination clinics in parks.
These walk-in clinics allow anyone 12 and up to get a vaccination without the need for an appointment or going into a permanent location.
The van visited Howard Park on Jun. 28 and 29 as well as Saint-Roch Park on Jul. 1 and 2. The van set up small tents in the center of the park where volunteers and nurses were on-site to administer both first and second doses to anyone who wanted them.
“Our vaccination rate is the lowest of our territory,” said Lucie Tremblay, director of nursing and vaccination for CIUSSS West-Central, adding that health authorities needed to “meet the people where they are.”
They are also planning another 60 such pop-up sites across the island throughout July and August. “What we’re looking at is where the vaccination rates are the lowest and where the transmission is the highest and to really try to target those areas,” explained Tremblay.
“We are in the park where the people are with their family,” added Tremblay, explaining that this contributed to the accessibility of inoculation. A total of 435 vaccines were administered over the 4 days and further contributed to the total portion of residents who have gotten at least 1 dose, now at 58%.
Accessible to all
Dawood Masih, a deacon at St. Francis Of Assisi Church in Park Extension, was with his daughter at Howard Park on Tuesday waiting for his second dose. Masih was very pleased with the campaign and felt it could help get more people vaccinated.
“I think that for the people it’s a good opportunity to come here,” said Masih, explaining that appointments are often 3 to 4 months away and that some can’t plan that far out. “Bookings are also good, but this is more available now,” added Masih.
Masih said that this strategy allowed for more people to get vaccinated, regardless of their work or schedule. “If the people are at home, they can come anytime and do the next edition right,” he explained.
Masih had found out about the pop-up clinic via a Facebook post shared by city councillor Mary Deros.
Right in front
Sisam Mala, a resident of the area, was also waiting for her second dose. She was walking out the door of her apartment in front of Howard Park when she noticed the clinic and decided to go.
“It’s good because everybody sees it and everybody knows this park,” said Mala of the vans’ noticeability in the neighbourhood’s park.
“Everybody knows, everybody comes here, in the evening time everybody is walking and playing here,” added Mala, “it’s a good location.”
Adapting the strategy
Many people in the community have been asking health authorities to reorient their vaccination approach to better cater to the diverse population in Park Extension.
“The problem is that not all the cultural communities read the news, they don’t get on Facebook,” said city councillor Mary Deros, pointing to language and cultural barriers reducing uptake.
Deros added that these differences were addressed by adapting the process. The health authority, therefore, added more walk-in sites and pop-up clinics, such as those recently held in places of worship.
“We’re reaching out to them, we are going to them as opposed to them coming to us,” explained Deros. “I truly am very grateful that the people at the health board, with the support of the government, are extremely proactive,” she added.
Want to go travelling
For some at the VacciVan site at Howard Park that day, the eventual freedom that the second dose would provide was the ultimate motivator to get vaccinated. Dionysios Lazanis and his son Peter Lazanis were also waiting for their second dose.
“I want to go to Ireland, I want to go to England, I want to go to Italy, I want to go to Greece, we want to travel,” said the father, while his son added that this was the major reason why they were getting vaccinated.
Nonetheless, the pair did feel things could have been better organized. “They should have put some kind of tent or shade for the people waiting,” said Dionysios, adding that the 38-degree summer heat could dissuade people from waiting in line. Lucie Tremblay of the health authority said this issue would be addressed for future editions
Peter also added that the signage was somewhat minimal and that some people may not actually know what it is that was going on. But regardless of certain shortcomings, the health authority felt the event was a success and both father and son were happy that they were one step closer to a return to normal life.