For the second day in a row, health-care workers were in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside administering doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to community members.
A team set up at the Carnegie Community Centre on Saturday, giving shots to the homeless, people living in Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels, shelters and supportive housing.
“I was originally under the impression I wouldn’t be able to get it until April or May, and I was really happy,” Michael Leland, a binner who has lived in the area for 22 years, told Global News.
Leland got his shot Friday, and said it involved about a two-hour wait.
B.C.’s vaccination plan prioritizes health-care workers and the elderly, but has also made exceptions for Indigenous communities and other vulnerable groups.
On Friday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the DTES vaccination clinics were a response to outbreaks in the area.
“We are seeing outbreaks in people who are under-housed and homeless in in the Downtown Eastside and also in in areas of Fraser Health and Surrey in particular,” she said.
“And we know that people in those situations are much more likely to get severely this end up in hospital.”
Henry tied some of the flare up in the area to outbreaks at St. Paul’s Hospital, where she said many people in the Downtown Eastside go for their health care.
Brianne De Man, a manager with the Binners’ Project, a group that works with binners to divert trash from landfills while providing them with income, has been working the phones and the streets to get the word out about the clinics.
“A lot of people down here don’t have modern modes of communication, cell phones, social media, things like that,” she said.
“I think it’s important for community organizations like ours who have relationships and trust built with our members to be able to bridge those gaps.”
Word of mouth, she said, will be crucial in getting Downtown Eastside residents vaccinated.
That approach was on full display near the Overdose Prevention Site, where a makeshift mural sprang up with vaccine clinic information.
De Man also believes there is work to do in combatting misinformation about the vaccine among some Downtown Eastside residents, some of whom don’t believe the vaccine will work, or will not work against new variants of the virus.
Leland said he’s also found some reticence among his neighbours about the shot.
“The people that are aware of their health and taking care of themselves care about it, however, the rest of them there’s not a lot of interest that I can see,” he said.
Like De Man, he believes it will be a challenge to make sure everyone who is eligible in the area makes it to a clinic, as well as making sure they get back for their second dose when it’s available.
“There’s so many people that don’t have access to a TV. I don’t have a TV,” he said.
“I won’t even see this report myself.”
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