Low-barrier COVID-19 vaccine clinic coming to Calgary: Who can get their shot and how

Nicole Fuerderer, 23, receives a COVID-19 vaccine from Nashria Valani, RN, at the Telus Convention Centre in Calgary, Alta, on April 19, 2021. Leah Hennel, Alberta Health Services

Vibrant, entertaining community spirit isn’t what most people think of when they picture a COVID-19 vaccine clinic, but that’s exactly what organizers are hoping to bring to a walk-in outreach clinic in northeast Calgary this weekend.

The outreach clinic will run from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, June 5 and Sunday, June 6 at the Village Square Leisure Centre, and organizers hope to give thousands of shots to those who would otherwise face barriers with getting their vaccine the conventional way.

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“We’re seeing lower numbers of vaccine uptake northeast Calgary. And when we talk to the community, it really has nothing to do with vaccine hesitancy,” Anila Lee Yuen with the Calgary Centre for Newcomers told Global News.

“The amount of vaccine hesitancy is similar to anywhere else in the city or anywhere else in the country.”

She said the big issues people are facing are physically getting to a clinic, securing childcare so they can attend a vaccine appointment, not having flexible employment that allows them to both make an appointment in advance and take time off to attend.

Language and transportation barriers have also prevented people from getting their shots.

Who can get their shot at the clinic?

The walk-in clinic is being provided with Pfizer doses, meaning those aged 12 and older can get immunized at the clinic.

People don’t need to have registered for their vaccine beforehand — volunteers will be on hand to help them register while they wait in line.

Organizers say the clinic is specifically targeting residents of northeast and southeast Calgary, and that anyone living in those parts of the city can get their shot there.

Read more: Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout failing most vulnerable populations: doctors

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Attendees are encouraged to bring photo ID and a health card, however, a health card is not required to get a dose.

It’s hoped 5,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine will be given over the course of the weekend.

“That would be amazing. If we could run through 5,000 people in two days or even one day, that would be amazing,” Lee Yuen said.

How to navigate the walk-in clinic

The vaccination stations will be set up in one of the leisure centre’s hockey arenas. Lee Yuen said the location was picked because it was a large landmark in the community, and easy to get to by train or bus.

When people arrive, they’ll go through the regular COVID-19 screening measures in place at other places — like checking for symptoms of the virus or whether they need assistance in a specific language.

Read more: Calgary Indigenous clinic offering COVID-19 vaccines to youth, homeless, newcomers

“There are volunteers and medical professionals that can speak almost any language you can think of that people may require,” Lee Yuen said.

Volunteers will help them either register before getting in line, or register while in line, and then proceed through to get their shot, and will be asked to wait 15 minutes afterward like at other sites.

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Lee Yuen said they can’t anticipate how long line-ups might be, but organizers have worked with Calgary Emergency Management and Alberta Health Services to establish a good flow of people through the facility.

The clinic is also hoping to work with the Twitter account Vax Hunters to provide live updates on social media on the status of the clinic and lines.

Community ‘vibe’ at the clinic

While keeping COVID-19 health measures top of mind, there will be community supports and entertainment outside the clinic after people have gotten their shot.

Booths will be set up for people to get information and resources, culturally comforting food hampers, music playing and even a selfie wall where people can take a photo to post on social media.

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Read more: New COVID-19 vaccine clinic opens for Calgary’s homeless population

“People will really feel like it’s a community event and and it’s celebratory because we’re one step closer to to back to normal,” Lee Yuen said.

More walk-in clinics on the horizon?

Lee Yuen said this weekend’s event is a pilot for a large scale clinic of this style, and depending on its success, they’ll work with AHS to hold more clinics with possibly expanded hours, as well as localized clinics hosted by community groups.

Lee Yuen said they’ve already gotten a good response form the community, with people already showing their enthusiasm for the walk-in clinic.

Read more: Drive-thru COVID-19 vaccine clinic opening in northeast Calgary

“Already… we’ve had people that have showed up to Village Square Leisure Centre, and the centre had to turn them away, of course, right away, because it’s not not starting until Saturday,” she said.

“So people are excited and we see that as a really good indication that people are going to show up, because they’re already showing up, right?”

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