As thousands descended upon a Scarborough neighbourhood with the hope of getting a second COVID-19 vaccine shot at a pop-up clinic, there are renewed calls for a better distribution system for administering doses.
The pop-up clinic, which was set to open at 8 a.m. on Tuesday to those 12 and older who live in postal code areas starting with M, had approximately 2,000 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses. Appointments were not required.
Global News reporters in a helicopter and on the ground saw thousands of people waiting in lines that spanned over several blocks, doubled up in spots and many were left to stand on residential streets.
Annabelle Trinidad told Global News she arrived at the Warden Hilltop Community Centre on Mendelssohn Street, near Warden Avenue and St. Clair Avenue East, at around 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday with the hope of getting a second dose.
“It’s a little frustrating. It’s a little unorganized. I know there’s a lot of people waiting behind here and there are several different lines,” she said after waiting for more than seven hours.
“If you’re going come here, the tip is to bring a chair, come early — you have to come early if you want a vaccine.”
As Trinidad was waiting, families with children were prioritized in the line, which added to the delays for others.
Melissa Taylor, a mother of two children who told Global News she arrived at around 5:45 a.m. so her daughter could receive a second vaccine, said the parking lot at the centre was full and there was little street parking left.
“It seems a bit of a free for all … I would feel better knowing that she just has it and I don’t really want to wait for that,” she said.
“We lost my mother-in-law to COVID last April, so we know how bad the virus can be. Claire was sick with COVID earlier in the year and, yeah, we just don’t want to take any more chances.”
When asked about the line outside of Warden Hilltop Community Centre, Scarborough Southwest NDP MPP Doly Begum said while it’s encouraging to see so many residents eager to be vaccinated, she called on the Ford government to once again boost the supply of doses to communities where the need is greatest.
“One of the things I find with the Ministry of Health I’ve had to fight to get our first doses and enough vaccines for our area and better method in terms of prioritizing different neighbourhoods and finally they got it a lot later when we are able to get local communities vaccinated individually, but now we are seeing the same thing with the second doses,” she said.
“They are making the same mistakes they made with the first dose. They are doing the same thing with the second dose where we have the entire M postal code here today and people are not able to get their vaccines today.”
Global News contacted Michael Garron Hospital and East Toronto Health Partners, the organizers of the clinic, to ask about the surge in people looking for second doses on Tuesday.
Wolf Klassen, the vice-president of program support for the hospital, said the team is currently operating the clinics in priority neighbourhoods and encouraged prospective attendees to ensure they are going to the pop-ups closest to them in an effort to ensure the residents closest to the location can attend.
“We appreciate that eligible individuals are eager to receive their second dose. Our mobile team goes to great efforts to ensure those waiting in line at our pop-ups receive their vaccine,” he said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
“If there is a large turnout, tickets are given to those in line to secure their dose. When all tickets have been handed out, the line is closed. We ask that individuals without a ticket not stay in line or join the line.”
Klassen added clinic staff work to offer accommodations such as a separate entrance, an expedited line and places to sit for seniors, those with mobility impairments and families with young children.
He encouraged people to try to book appointments through the Ontario government’s online vaccine booking portal or through pharmacies. However, residents in Delta variant hot spots have expressed frustration this week, citing a lack of available slots.
Global News contacted Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott’s office on Tuesday to ask about the situation seen at Warden Hilltop Community Centre and the system of pop-up clinics. Alexandra Hilkene, a spokesperson for Elliott, said it falls to Toronto Public Health to determine how its allocation of vaccines will be distributed, including through the provincial booking portal and pop-up clinics.
Brad Ross, the City of Toronto’s chief communications officer, said public health staff are directing “a large portion” of doses to hot spots and added they continue to push for an increase in the supply to address areas of most concern.
He noted the City will be releasing 30,000 new Moderna dose appointments on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, click here for a list of upcoming pop-clinic being organized by Michael Garron Hospital and East Toronto Health Partners.
— With files from Gabby Rodrigues and Kamil KaramaliView link »