Montreal health authority launches door-to-door campaign to promote AstraZeneca vaccine

Some regional health authorities in Montreal are taking a different approach to getting people vaccinated, with a door-to-door campaign and a van equipped with loudspeakers spreading the word.

Van equipped with loudspeaker aims to encourage eligible Montrealers to get the shot

With thousands of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine waiting to be used, the local health authority is making a push to encourage eligible Quebecers to sign up for their shot. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

If you live in the Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce area, you may have heard the following message today: "Are you between 55 and 79 years old and would like to get vaccinated?"

The message was translated in multiple languages, including French, English, Tagalog, Italian and Arabic, and was played over a loudspeaker mounted on the back of a van, Saturday.

It's part of a new strategy the CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l'île-de-Montréal put in place to try and get more people inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

Right now, the vaccine is only available to Quebecers between the ages of 55 and 79, pending public health approval.

For the past week, provincial and Montreal health authorities have repeatedly called on people within the eligible age group to get the shot as hundreds of thousands of doses remain unused. 

"We have good vaccination coverage but in some areas it's a little bit harder to reach people, so we're going where they are," said Lucie Tremblay, director of nursing and vaccinations with the local CIUSSS. 

The van will be driving around neighborhood streets over the next two weeks, reminding residents of public health regulations and informing them where they can get vaccinated.

The van, deployed by the CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l'île-de-Montréal, plays a message in several different languages, informing Montreal residents of nearby vaccination centres. (Radio-Canada)

"We strongly believe that vaccination is our best tool against the virus," said Tremblay. 

"Therefore, we are adapting our strategies. It's not only the truck that's going to be going from street to street, but it's also adding posters — we have flyers that are also translated in 15 different languages." 

On Saturday, the campaign was concentrated near the future pop-up vaccination site at the Saint-Raymond Community Centre. Eligible residents can get vaccinated with the AstraZeneca shot there from Tuesday to Thursday next week, by appointment only. 

Appointments can be made by calling 514-734-9912, and Tremblay says staff will be on hand to translate the calls if need be. 

Lucie Tremblay, director of nursing at the CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal says they are trying to reach people who may not be aware they are eligible. (Submitted by the CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal)

Staff will also be going door-to-door and visiting community centres to encourage people to get vaccinated, Tremblay said. 

"We are at the service of the population. We want to vaccinate as many people as possible," she said. 

Eligible residents in the area can also get the AstraZeneca vaccine without an appointment at the Bill-Durnan Arena. 

Marie-France Reynault, director of the department of preventative medicine and public health at the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM) said the risk of getting a blood clot from COVID-19 is far greater than the risk of possible side effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

Quebecers should look to Ontario as an example of just how quickly the virus could spread and hospitals could become overloaded, she said. 

"The situation here is still unstable. All it takes is a few more cases of the Brazilian variant and things would change," said Reynault. 

Montreal Public Health made 20,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine available at drop-in centres across the city this weekend. A full list of the city's drop-in centres and vaccination sites is available here

With files from Chloë Ranaldi and Radio-Canada's Jacaudrey Charbonneau

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