The head of Ottawa’s COVID-19 pop-up clinic team says it’s working on “proactive” communications to clarify the process for getting a shot at temporary sites targeting the city’s hardest-hit neighbourhoods.
Even with an increase in COVID-19 vaccine doses as of late, Ontario’s rapidly accelerating vaccine rollout has had its share of bumps in the road with communication snafus.
In Ottawa, the vaccine distribution plan has taken a direct approach with pop-up clinics targeting communities that have been hit hard by COVID-19 — but these plans, too, have occasionally spurred confusion.
Some clinics in the city earlier this spring were criticized for late, day-of announcements, which health officials said were intended to discourage far-flung residents from travelling to priority neighbourhoods to scoop a shot.
Other pop-ups caused frustration with shifting eligibility from day to day and confusion over which neighbourhoods qualified for the priority shots.
Some residents reported issues with the process on Tuesday, when they were turned away for not having gotten a slot in advance for a pop-up clinic at St. Joe’s Adult High School that came with a “no appointment necessary” label on Twitter.
Amanda Farias, logistics section chief with the city’s emergency operations department, acknowledged the communications strategy around pop-ups has “evolved” over time.
In an effort to make the clinic process “more equitable,” Farias told Global News the city instituted an “appointment card” system at pop-up sites. Residents could line up before vaccines started and staff setting up the clinic could hand out these cards with a time to return later in the day.
The city has since adjusted the process to only hand out these cards two hours before a clinic’s scheduled start time to discourage residents from setting up a tent outside the site in the wee hours of the morning.
The city has shifted its communications strategy as well, and now lists the schedule of pop-up clinics two weeks in advance to better set expectations for residents.
“I think we’ve been a lot more proactive in our communications,” she said.
The appointment card system has other benefits, as well. Ottawa Public Health and its community partners will often knock on doors in the surrounding community in advance of and even during clinics to hand out the cards and explain the vaccination process to the residents they’re encouraging to get vaccinated.
Farias said uptake at the pop-up clinics has been strong, with some clinics administering up to 500 doses per day.
“We’re certainly seeing the demand is there, for sure,” she said.
Scheduling an appointment at a City of Ottawa pop-up:
- Check to see if you’re eligible for a pop-up clinic based on your neighbourhood priority
- Find a nearby pop-up clinic on the city’s schedule
- Arrive up to two hours before the clinic starts to secure a slot for later in the day
- Come back at the time listed on your card for your shot, if given one
- Monitor the city’s Twitter account for updates on when pop-up clinics are full for the day
Other health-care providers, such as family doctors and pharmacies, also occasionally host pop-up clinics. Check individual providers for their dates and processes.