As cities prepare for an expanded COVID-19 vaccine distribution, the call to increase the accessibility of doses continues to grow.
City councillor Shelley Carroll is putting forward a motion to Toronto council this week asking for clinics to expand their hours of operation and to consider offering the COVID-19 vaccine 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Carroll said people need more details when it comes to the city’s plans.
“Social media lit up after I moved this motion,” Carroll said. “Mostly with young people saying, ‘yeah I’d go at three in the morning.'”
However, the chair of Toronto’s board of health, Joe Cressy, said offering COVID-19 vaccines around the clock is not new. Cressy said this has always been part of the city’s strategy to administer the doses as quickly as possible. “Toronto has developed an immunization model that can be scaled at any time based on supply,” Cressy said. “…so if we have enough supply to run 24 hours and get them out faster, that’s exactly what we’re ready to do.”
Experts say the location of the clinics also plays a key role to ensure as many people as possible choose to get vaccinated. Kate Mulligan, an assistant professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said offering clinics only during business hours would be a significant barrier for communities hardest hit by the virus.
“We have people who are shift workers for example, or who can’t take time off work during traditional business hours,” Mulligan said. “They need to be able to have access all through the day and night.”
Doctors have said repeatedly that timing is everything. “It is very clear that we need to get this done as rapidly as possible,” said family physician Dr. Liz Muggah, who also serves as the president of the Ontario College of Family Physicians.
Should the 24-hour clinic model be replicated in other parts of the province, Muggah said family physicians remain ready and willing to help. “Many family doctors have signed up for these mass vaccine clinics that are going to open,” Muggah said. “If we added shifts that were going to be overnight, I know my colleagues across the province would be prepared to step up.”