IKEA Israel to offer COVID-19 vaccines at stores. Should Canada follow suit?

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Coronavirus: Trudeau says Canada on track to receive 2 million Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses before end of March
WATCH: Trudeau says Canada on track to receive 2 million Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses before end of March – Feb 16, 2021

As the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines continues across the world, some countries have turned to repurposing large, open locations into more easily accessible vaccination sites.

In the case of Israel, several such locations won’t only just let you get your dose of the vaccine — you can do your furniture shopping as well.

The country, which already boasts the highest per capita rate of COVID-19 vaccines administered in the world, will be offering inoculations at IKEA locations across the country.

In a post on the IKEA Israel website, the retailer said vaccination stands will be put in parking lots and will be accessible for all ages.

The post said all health maintenance organizations will be accepted.

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The move has been quick to draw the attention of doctors and public health experts, with several in Canada signaling praise for the idea’s implementation.

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In a tweet Sunday, Abdu Sharkawy a Toronto-area infectious diseases specialist, said the move was “another example of Israel’s outstanding #COVIDVaccine rollout.”

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“Prioritizing incentive, accessibility goes a long way,” he wrote. “No surprise they’ve already vaccinated 40 per cent of their population.”

“This is how one does a vaccine rollout!” said Dr. Gerald Evans, an attending physician in infectious diseases and internal medicine at Kingston Health Sciences Centre.

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According to Tim Sly, an epidemiologist and professor emeritus at Ryerson University, the utilization of large, functional spaces will be important in Canada’s own vaccine rollout.

In an email to Global News, IKEA Canada did not confirm yet whether it would be repurposing their locations for provincial health authorities to administer vaccines, instead saying that they would have more information on Monday.

Global News has also reached out to health ministries whose provinces have IKEA retail stores in them, asking whether or not those locations or any other big box stores were being considered as potential COVID-19 vaccination sites, but did not hear back by time of publication.

Sly said that there was “no doubt” that Canada’s health authorities needed to get the vaccine moving in a more active way.

“Pharmacies, the local fire station, maybe the schoolyard — all of these places have to be used so that a person doesn’t have to travel for a hell of a long way downtown before they can come to a convention centre that’s going to be available to everybody,” said Sly.

“It makes a lot of sense that if IKEA is not running as a full retailer at the moment … so it makes an ideal situation, they could clear out the decks in there, they got a big area, look at the cafeteria in there.”

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Israel outpacing Canada on vaccine rollout

Israel has approved two COVID-19 vaccines for use, one made by Pfizer-BioNTech and the other manufactured by Moderna.

Both are mRNA vaccines and require two doses to be administered weeks apart.

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To date, Israel has administered 7,132,468 doses, accounting for 32.43 per cent of the country’s population, according to the latest tally from Johns Hopkins University.

As of Sunday, 2,881,825 people in Israel were fully vaccinated, meaning they had received two doses.

In comparison, Canada has administered 1,483,826 vaccine doses, accounting for only 1.97 per cent of the country’s population.

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The federal government, however, has maintained that the country expects to receive six million more doses of the approved vaccines by the end of March.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also repeatedly said all Canadians who want a vaccine will have access to one by the end of September.

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