Gradual progress in Park-Extension vaccination campaign

    Park-Extension’s mobile vaccination clinics have seen a rise in vaccinations following last week’s opening of appointment-free services. Four hundred sixty-four vaccine doses were administered at three different mobile vaccination clinics in Park-Extension last week. At the Assuna Annabawiyah Mosque, 111 doses of vaccine were administered on May 4, and 161 doses were administered the following day. On May 6, 192 doses were given at the William Hingston Centre.
    Lifting barriers and meeting needs
    Francine Dupuis, associate CEO of CIUSSS West-Central Montreal, said she sees progress in the vaccination numbers. The combination of walk-in vaccination and vaccination by appointment works, said Dupuis. Appointment-free vaccination meets the needs of residents who don’t have computers, the internet, or have irregular work hours, she said.
    “The fact that we had appointment-free clinics in trusted places for a part of the population paid off,” said Ève Torres, coordinator of the Park-Extension Round Table. Torres also cited the opening of vaccination to people under 60 as well as increased collaboration with health authorities as reasons for progress.
    “I’m ecstatic,” said Giuliana Fumagalli, mayor of Villeray—Saint-Michel—Park-Extension. Language barriers, lack of technologies, and the lack of familiarity with those technologies have resulted in residents not being able to take full advantage of the public health resources, said the mayor. “People prefer lining up and waiting than trying to struggle with technology.” [With appointment-free vaccination], people know they can show up without an appointment, and this is exactly what people need. This is why it’s such a success.
    The mayor believes that residents seeing their neighbours getting vaccinated and talking to each other about their experiences has encouraged others to get the jab. “It’s word of mouth. People talk to each other. It’s the kind of neighbourhood we have.”
    The mayor emphasized the importance of proximity. “I would like to have something more in the northern section of Park-Ex. Right now, everything is concentrated in the south-end. We need something towards Howard Park or near Sinclar Laird school. The closer you get to people, the better it is.”
    Sending residents to Palais des Congrès or Côte-des-Neiges will not prove effective, she said. “People often don’t have the money to pay bus fares, and we have to take this into consideration. Not everybody has a bus pass.”
    Reaching all residents
    Francine Dupuis hopes health authorities are turning a corner in reaching hesitant residents. “There are people who believe in miracles, that think that they won’t get it if they are careful with their masks and hygiene. Others think that they are young and healthy, and so that it’s not so bad even if they get [COVID-19] because they will recover. Some are against vaccines in general because it’s a foreign organism entering the body. But there are no religious reasons that I see.”
    But Mayor Fumagalli disagrees that hesitancy is an issue. Her local pharmacist in the borough is waiting for more doses to administer, she said. “The proof was that people were going [to get vaccinated]. The ah-ha moment was that they know the pharmacist. They trust the pharmacist, and it’s close by.”
    Continuing to build trust on the ground requires locals engaging with the community, she said. “People will relate to someone who lives in the neighbourhood, looks like them, talks like them. There’s that immediate trust.”
    Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Park-Extension Round Table has gone door-to-door to raise awareness and bring resources directly to residents. During the vaccination phase of the pandemic, the organization has pivoted to helping residents make appointments and assist with transport.
    “We have tried as much as possible to employ people from here, who know the different communities and have them at heart,” said Torres. “Also, people who speak English, French, and at least a third language like Urdu, Punjabi, or Greek.
    Vaccination campaign going forward
    Due to popular demand, health authorities will be administrating 212 doses to adults over the age of 25 at the William Hingston Centre on May 13, said Dupuis. “We hope that people will talk about it. We hope they will come.”
    On further use of mobile vaccination clinics in Park-Extension, Dupuis said that it depends on the availability of personnel. “Personnel in the health system is becoming increasingly rare. It would be easy to say we can open up a dozen more clinics, but it’s not the case. Every time you open one up you have to take people away from another service. It’s a balance we try to maintain.”
    But the CIUSSS is considering bringing vaccines to people in the parks this summer. “Every time I pass by Jarry Park there’s an incredible amount of people.”