Younger people in COVID-19 hot spots confused about how to get vaccinated, expert says

·3 min read
The lineup for the 1,000 shots available stretched down the block from a pop-up vaccination clinic at Masjid Darussalam Thorncliffe Mosque. It's one of 111 neighbourhoods in Toronto that have been disproportionately hard hit by the pandemic.  (Yanjun Li/CBC - image credit)
The lineup for the 1,000 shots available stretched down the block from a pop-up vaccination clinic at Masjid Darussalam Thorncliffe Mosque. It's one of 111 neighbourhoods in Toronto that have been disproportionately hard hit by the pandemic. (Yanjun Li/CBC - image credit)

A member of the province's vaccine distribution task force is trying to clear up confusion among some people aged 18 to 49 in hot-spot neighbourhoods about how to get immunized against COVID-19.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch said residents in that age group living in high-risk areas will be able to get the shots in mobile and pop-up clinics that are locally advertised. And contrary to what some have thought, they will not yet be able to book an appointment online at a mass vaccination clinic.

The comments by the infectious disease specialist come after City of Toronto officials said there was some confusion following the announcement by the Ontario government last Wednesday that people 18 and older could get vaccinated with the help of mobile teams.

"I wish there was more clarity at the time of the announcement," Bogoch told CBC Toronto.

"I think it's important to note that, anyone who lives in those hot spots is certainly eligible for vaccination. There's no age cutoff for vaccination if you live in those hot spots. But the program is really bringing vaccines to the people," he added.

Bogoch said these clinics are strategically located in community centres, places of worship, workplaces and at locations close to high density housing.

"How will I know where they are? The answer is it's very, very locally advertised. It is truly a locally advertised vaccination. For example, if it's coming to a place of work, people at that place of work will be notified. If it's going to a community centre, members of that community will be notified."

Bogoch noted there was a pop-up vaccination clinic in Thorncliffe Park on the weekend in the parking lot of the Masjid Darus Salaam mosque. The clinic was across from Iqbal Halal Foods.

"Obviously, that's available for people who live in that area. You have to show proof of ID that demonstrates that you live in that postal code. That's a very local vaccine clinic for a particular community," he said.

He said the idea is to lower the barriers for vaccines for the "highest of high risk."

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, general manager of emergency management, agreed that there's been a lack of clarity about the clinics, but said that was partly due to the rapidly changing course of the pandemic.

"I appreciate that there is some confusion and I think that we all appreciate how quickly these things are moving and how quickly we're all having to respond and pivot, if you will, to the changes that are being made."

Pegg said people 18 and older in hot spots are not eligible to book through the provincial booking system nor at any of the mass vaccination clinics run by the city.

"Generally speaking, pop-up and mobile clinics are brought to the attention of eligible clients directly by primary care physicians, employers, building managers, faith leaders and other local leaders, who are directly connected with those for whom these clinics will serve," Pegg said.

Alexandra Hilkene, spokesperson for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, said more details on how people 18 and older can make an appointment at pop-up and mobile clinics in Toronto and Peel Region will be provided in the near future with the help of Toronto Public health and Peel Public Health.

"In these high-risk areas in Toronto and Peel, mobile teams, working with public health units, community groups, and local businesses will be established to administer vaccines to individuals 18+ to targeted settings as supply allows," she said.

"This includes high-risk congregate settings, residential buildings, faith based locations, and large employers. Pop-up clinics will also be set-up in highly impacted neighbourhoods to administer vaccines to those 18+, including at faith-based locations and community centres."