Vaccines north and south

Newest pop-up clinic serves northern end of Park Ex

The clinic was the first to be held in the much more isolated northern end of Park Extension, which many say is poorly serviced in health and social services. Photo: Matias Brunet-Kirk. NEWSFIRST

Another pop-up vaccination clinic was opened at the Howie-Morenz Arena over the weekend, allowing people to get a dose without an appointment. This was one of several such pop-up clinics in Park Extension. 

Although the pop-up site ran all day Friday and Saturday and saw a steady flow of people getting vaccinated, it still received a noticeably smaller turnout than previous clinics.

Other such pop-up centers took place at the Shree Ramji Hindu Temple and the Assuna Annabawiyah mosque over the past months. 

The clinic was hosted in the northern end of Park Extension, which many say is more poorly serviced in health and social services than other areas of the neighbourhood. 

Although vaccination numbers are steadily increasing, uptake in Park Extension has lagged behind other areas. As of Jun. 6, 48% of all Park Extension residents have received at least one vaccine dose, up from approximately 19% in early May, according to figures by the INSPQ.

Rates are especially low among young people, with only 39% of people under the age of 40 in the area who have received a first dose.

“In the north side of Park Extension, we found that there’s a lot of people that are falling through the cracks,”

Efforts being made

Waiting in line at the vaccination clinic at Howie-Morenz Arena on Friday morning was Caroline, a former Park Ex resident and a grade 6 teacher at local elementary school Barthélemy-Vimont. She was nearby and decided to go in for her second dose. 

“I’m definitely seeing the efforts being made,” said Caroline of the outreach work happening in the area to get people vaccinated. “They even translated the ad given to parents,” she added of the health information that has been distributed in several languages.

She nonetheless recognized the particular cultural, social and economic challenges Park Ex faces in getting inoculation rates up. “I often have to help my students make their appointments,” she said of the online booking website, which although is well designed, may not be fully intuitive for some people she said.

Caroline also said she would be interested in seeing more regular vaccine clinics across the neighbourhood. “If there’s demand for them, it would a good option,” she stated.

Serving the north

This weekend’s clinic at Howie-Morenz also marked the furthest north any of the pop-up clinics have gone. Many point to the area north of Jarry as particularly behind on vaccination and with higher rates of reported cases.

“A lot of them are new immigrants, students and refugees,” said Stella Bailakis, a volunteer with the Park Extension Round Table, a local organization that does organizing and outreach work in the north end of the neighbourhood. 

“They’re new arrivals, so they don’t have the information or the knowledge of what’s going on,” Bailakis added. “In the north side of Park Extension, we found that there’s a lot of people that are falling through the cracks,” she explained.

Although the clinic saw a steady flow of people, it received a noticeably smaller turnout than previous clinics.Photo: Matias Brunet-Kirk. NEWSFIRST

Distance and misinformation 

Bailakis explained that this divide could be attributed to several geographical, economic and social factors specific to the area. 

Distance has proven to be an important reason why many are not getting vaccinated. Both permanent vaccination sites are located at the Park Extension CLSC and the MIL Université de Montréal campus, situated at the very south end of the neighbourhood and out of the way for many. 

The lack of quality information among certain groups is also behind the lag in uptake. “They’re not informed, they’re not getting the proper information,” said Bailakis, explaining that the spread of misinformation via the internet is contributing to vaccine hesitancy. 

Some also don’t have the opportunity to make it to vaccination clinics while they are open, as many of those in essential sectors work long hours and on irregular schedules without access to adequate transport. 

Call for more clinics

While the pop-up clinics are running smoothly, many are calling for more permanent solutions to the vaccine divide. “They’re not giving us enough resources,” explained Bailakis, adding that she would prefer to see more permanent sites opened across the neighbourhood.

“No pop-up clinics, just leave five nurses and a couple of people to register and leave them there,” pleaded Bailakis, explaining that waiting to add permanent locations would only exacerbate the problem. 

“We have to do double the work and get out there and make sure we spread the word so that our clinics are filled,” explained Bailakis, adding that more people could get vaccinated if the clinics were permanent. 

Increase hours

Last week, the CIUSSS West-Central announced several measures to address some of these issues. Walk-in hours at the Park Extension CLSC on Jun. 18 and 19 will run from 8 AM to 8 PM to accommodate more people 

There are also plans for a mobile vaccination truck to be used throughout the summer to bolster immunization in the area. The truck would visit various parks and set up outdoor vaccination clinics where residents could get a dose without an appointment. 

Everyone 12 years and up is now eligible and encouraged to get a vaccine. They are available for free both by appointment made by telephone or online or at any walk-in clinic. 

Photo: Matias Brunet-Kirk. NEWSFIRST