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DJs and door prizes: Fraser Health gets creative with overnight vaccine marathon

Click to play video: 'DJs and door prizes: Fraser Health holds overnight vaccine marathon' DJs and door prizes: Fraser Health holds overnight vaccine marathon
Fraser Health is pulling out all the stops with a 36-hour "vax-a-thon" in an effort to boost the number of residents getting their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Paul Johnson reports – Jun 19, 2021

Live music, highland dancers, even door prizes: Fraser Health pulled out all the stops as it launched a 36-hour “vax-a-thon” Saturday, in an effort to boost the number of residents getting their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Officials had 7,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines on hand at the Guildford Recreation Centre, and said they were prepared to get more if there was demand over the course of the weekend.

Read more: COVID-19: 109 new cases, 1 new death as B.C. heads into 1st weekend of eased restrictions

Attendance was steady as of Saturday afternoon, with a line wrapping partway around the building.

Christine Mackie, Fraser Health’s co-lead for vaccine coordination, said the health authority got the idea for the all-night jabfest from Ontario’s Peel Region, which held a similar vaccination marathon last month.

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The idea was to eliminate any possible barriers that might be preventing people from getting immunized against COVID-19.

“Anything we could do to increase accessibility was really our ultimate goal — so if we can offer times where we haven’t offered before and that will get people here to get their first doses, then that’s exactly what we wanted to accomplish,” Mackie said.

“We’ve got a lot of people that work night shifts, and the daytime may not be the best time for them to even be awake. Generally, they are night owls.”

Fraser Health was encouraging people to book an appointment in advance, but said same-day spaces would also be available — and staff would also be able to book appointments at other clinics, if necessary.

Read more: B.C. gears up for first weekend of recreational travel, but no international tourists yet

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The push came as the pace of first doses in B.C. begins to taper off.

Health officials reported just 8,917 first doses administered province-wide on Friday, down from more than 69,000 first doses in a single day three weeks prior.

Part of that decline comes as second doses ramp up, but as of Friday, about 25 per cent of British Columbians aged 12 and over still hadn’t had a single dose of vaccine.

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The City of Surrey actually boasts a first-dose coverage of 77 per cent among people aged 12-plus, but other parts of Fraser Health have lagged, including Abbotsford (71 per cent), Chilliwack (66 per cent) and Mission (65 per cent).

Among those getting their shot on Saturday was Larry Knopp, principal trumpet for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

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Knopp was also performing on-site.

“It’s great to play for people again, it’s been about a year-and-a-half since we’ve had live people to play for,” he said.

Read more: B.C. advice on AstraZeneca 2nd dose unchanged as feds recommend switch to mRNA vaccines

“It’s great to see so many people getting the shot. The only way we’re going to get back to normal is getting enough people vaccinated. Without that, the arts, everything is going to suffer.”

As the evening rolls in, officials said they would have a DJ on hand, and were encouraging night-owl attendees to “dress to impress” with their favourite mask for a “mask-erade.”

Into Sunday, Fraser Health said food trucks would be on hand and was encouraging people to come out and get vaccinated as a Father’s Day activity.

The health authority said all Fraser Health residents were welcome, including people without personal health numbers, vulnerable people and people who are not official residents of British Columbia.

“We won’t turn anyone that’s a first doser away,” Mackie said.

The event runs from 11 a.m. Saturday until 7 p.m. on Sunday, at the Guildford Recreation Centre at 15105 -105 Ave. in Surrey.

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