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‘COVID-19 is still out there’: New clinics in east Calgary aimed at getting more kids vaccinated

Click to play video: 'Summer vaccination clinics for youth now available' Summer vaccination clinics for youth now available
A Calgary non-profit agency is using a grant from Alberta Health Services to set up clinics this summer, trying to get more vulnerable Calgary kids vaccinated. Carolyn Kury de Castillo. reports. – Jun 24, 2022

COVID-19 vaccination clinics are being held in Calgary this summer for pediatric and adolescent doses, targeting some of Calgary’s vulnerable populations.

For some newcomers, it can be a challenge to get their kids to a vaccination clinic. There can be plenty of obstacles, whether it’s transportation, job schedules, or language barriers.

“It’s really hard for parents to get out if it’s something they haven’t done before,” said Debby Jones, a program facilitator with the Centre for Newcomers.

“It’s a new experience and it’s scary, depending on if they’ve been out and taking transit before or not. After they get out the first time and they’ve done it, it’s not so scary and then they’re happy to go on their own.”

Read more: Alberta announces COVID-19 vaccines boosters for teenagers

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To help parents get their kids vaccinated, the Centre for Newcomers got a grant from Alberta Health to set up vaccination clinics this summer at cultural associations and community groups in the Calgary’s east end.

Community relations director Ayotunde Kayode said staff here have built relationships and trust with those groups and believes if you bring the vaccine to the people, they will come.

“We really wanted the communities we work with to have the awareness that COVID-19 is still out there and we shouldn’t relax so much and that it’s good for all of us to get vaccinated,” Kayode said.

He said no appointments are required.

“Because we work with people in the community, we can leverage on that strength to be able to bring them out and work with them. We know them. We take our projects to the community,” Kayode said.

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Is ‘moving on’ from COVID-19 realistic? – Jun 19, 2022

The clinics are being held in the east end in part because there’s a high population of new Canadians there and because the lowest vaccination rates for children aged five to 11 are in Calgary Lower North East at 35.6 per cent with one dose, Calgary East at 37 per cent and Calgary Upper North East at 50.9 per cent.

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According to Alberta Health numbers as of June 20, Calgary Elbow is at 74 per cent, Calgary Centre West is at 71 per cent and Lower North West has a rate of 73.6 per cent.

Read more: COVID-19: Upper northeast Calgary has highest vaccination rate in Alberta

“We are beyond closing down measures because now we can boost immunity with the vaccine,” said Dr. Cora Constantinescu, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

She said vaccinations have helped reduce the hospitalization rate and the severity of COVID cases, and said it’s important to focus vaccination efforts on vulnerable populations.

“If the vaccine is not easily available where people are and where people work and where people live, then we are going to see huge equity difference in uptake. The best way to combat that is accessibility,” Constantinescu said.

“We saw that with adults and it makes good sense that it’s the same for children as well. Parents need to have the vaccine available at different times without appointments and they need to be able to have their whole family vaccinated at once. So all of these are really important access issues that end up being an equity issue amongst vulnerable populations.”

As of June 20, 49.8 per cent of children five to 11 in Alberta had one dose and 35.4 per cent had two.

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Youth 12 and over have been eligible for their booster shot since mid-March. Only 9.9 per cent of kids 12 to 14 have theirs and 19 per cent of teens 15 to 19 have a booster shot.

The next clinic will be held at Northeast Family Connections on June 29.

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