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Calgary’s Indigenous COVID-19 vaccine clinic hitting the streets with mobile outreach

The Immunization Special Forces vehicle will be bringing COVID-19 vaccines to vulnerable populations in and around Calgary. Global News

Calgary’s Indigenous COVID-19 vaccine outreach clinic is far from finished coming up with ways to reach more of the area’s vulnerable population — with the latest development literally taking shots on the road.

The new Immunization Special Forces mobile clinic hits the streets this week, bringing vaccines right to the people who need it, but find it hard to get it through the conventional clinic and pharmacy set-ups.

In just five minutes, the table and chairs can be set up outside the vehicle — which, inside, is equipped with a fridge to keep the doses at the right temperature, and all other vaccination supplies like alcohol swabs and bandaids.

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

On the outside, the mobile clinic has an awning to protect clients and staff from rain and sun, as well as heavy duty tires that, when it’s taken to First Nations, mean the vehicle can handle any road conditions.

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“We don’t really have a limit or a target. So there’s no minimum or maximum that number of people that we’ll go out to immunize,” said Beth Woytas with the Urban Indigenous COVID-19 Clinic.

“The important thing is that we’re going out and we’re providing the service to people where they’re at.”

The vaccination table set-up for the Calgary Indigenous COVID-19 immunization clinic’s mobile program. Global News

Bringing the shots to people “where they’re at” will include downtown Calgary, where organizers hope to help those dealing with homelessness and “rough sleepers” who are hesitant to use shelters, supportive living facilities where people are getting out of situations of homelessness, the Siksika First Nation, and farms employing temporary foreign workers from Mexico, outside the city.

“There’s people out there that really need it,” said Lori Johnstone, Indigenous task force coordinator at the Aboriginal Friendship Centre.

“The capacity for them to go into a clinic or a hospital to to get immunization… it’s pretty difficult for them. So bringing the vehicle to them is going to make their lives so much easier.”

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

Johnstone said bringing the vaccines to the people through this clinic also provides clients with a sense of trust between themselves and the health-care workers, that they otherwise likely wouldn’t have at a clinic or pharmacy.

In the first couple of clinics that were conducted downtown, Chaz Smith with Be The Change YYC said crews administered about 30 shots in just a few hours — a success rate he expects will be maintained.

The Immunization Special Forces vehicle will be bringing COVID-19 vaccines to vulnerable populations in and around Calgary. Global News

The clinic is easy to use, and will both go to people, and provide vaccine to those who walk up while the vehicle is parked at its various locations.

“(Clients) don’t need identification,” Smith said. “(Health-care workers will) be able to help them right away and they’ll be able to get them that health care.

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“This accessibility means that people will get vaccinated who previously are not being vaccinated or who might not have this access to health care.”

Read more: 2nd Indigenous COVID-19 vaccine clinic open in Calgary

It’s hoped by bringing the vaccines to vulnerable populations, it will allow them to get back to using services they’ve been avoiding since the start of the pandemic, like shelters.

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