Ahead of its opening next week, the new COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Earl Nichols Recreation Centre doled out its first shot on Friday as the Middlesex-London Health Unit gave media a tour of its newest mass vaccination clinic.
Earl Nichols marks the fourth mass vaccination clinic in London, Ont., and Middlesex County, as well as the first in south London.
The first vaccine was given to Ryan Gosso, a 25-year-old grocery store worker, with registered nurse Melissa Thompson handling the shot.
“It’s easy, didn’t feel anything,” Gasso said immediately after receiving his first dose.
“Last time I was in here, I was playing hockey. I never thought it would look like this, but no, it looks nice.”
MLHU interim CEO Emily Williams said Earl Nichols builds off lessons learned from past vaccination clinics.
“We noticed at our other locations that the registration process tends to be a bottleneck and because of the layout of (Earl Nichols) we knew were going to need to change up what we were doing,” said Williams.
This led the MLHU to the St. Thomas-Elgin Memorial Arena, where Southwestern Public Health provided a tour, along with details on what was needed to replicate their clinic’s operations.
Williams said Earl Nichols is the first MLHU vaccine clinic to provide a “client hub” model.
This involves having clients placed in individual pods that vaccinators can travel between in order to administer shots. Earl Nichols has a total of 84 pods available.
“The efficiency of having one vaccinator to be able to work with four clients, it will help us move more clients through the system more quickly,” Williams said.
“We’re ultimately looking at this site as being able to do over 2,000 per day, that’s of course depending upon supply.”
Ward 12 Coun. Elizabeth Peloza, who represents the area Earl Nichols is located in, said south Londoners have already expressed their joy with the first mass vaccination clinic to reach their end of the city.
“Many residents can walk here, they can bike here, it’s on London Transit Commission routes 10 and 93, and when residents feel comfortable in a space, they’re going to be more apt to come to it,” Peloza said.
“This really is like our home vaccination centre.”
Peloza added that the location provides more than just a vaccination clinic, with basketball courts, a playground, trails and plenty of greenery to enjoy after getting a shot.
“It is a nice area and a hidden gem that many residents aren’t aware of.”
Ward 5 Coun. Maureen Cassidy, who also serves as the chair of the MLHU’s board of health, said Earl Nichols has the added benefit of reaching those who especially need a vaccine.
“It’s an area where right now there is a low vaccination rate and a high rate of infection.”
When Earl Nichols opens next Tuesday, it will add to a growing roster of mass vaccination clinics in the region.
Two others are located in London at the Western Fair Agriplex and the North London Optimist Community Centre.
The Caradoc Community Centre in Mount Brydges is currently the only clinic available Middlesex County, however a two-day clinic is set to pop-up in Dorchester next week and officials say more be on the horizon if it proves successful.
A fifth mass vaccination clinic is slated to arrive at some point in the region, but the MLHU said its opening is dependent on available vaccine supply.