Coming soon to a park near you: vaccine van aims to make it easier for Montreal youth to get their shots
Specially equipped 'Vaccivan' will administer vaccines in west-end parks this summer
Hours after Kais Ferrag received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, he was out playing soccer on a field in Kent Park, located in Côte-des-Neiges, like he does almost every weekday.
"I had my dose, I came here at noon and I played. I had no problem. I felt great," he said.
Now, thanks to an initiative by the local health authority, the CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal and the Jean Coutu pharmacies network, people like Ferrag won't have to travel farther than a park to receive a vaccine this summer.
On Friday, the health agency and its partners launched the Vaccivan, a vehicle specially equipped to administer COVID-19 vaccines, with the goal of boosting the vaccination rate of youths in the city's west end.
"I think it's a very good idea," said Ferrag, adding he'd snag a second dose if it were offered to him on site.
The vehicle will move from park to park and other outdoor public spaces in the Côte-des-Neiges-NDG borough, the Parc-Extension neighbourhood, and municipalities including Westmount, Cote St. Luc, Hampstead, and Outremont in an effort to meet youths where they congregate.
"With the Vaccivan, we will be able to go where the young people aged from 18 to 35 usually are," said Lucie Tremblay, director of vaccination for the CIUSSS. As of Tuesday, nearly 69 per cent of Montreal residents between 18 and 39 had received a first dose of the vaccine.
This summer, the mobile clinic will mainly offer first doses to people without an appointment. The scheduled routes will be announced as locations are confirmed.
Targeting youth, vaccine hesitancy
Tremblay says the Vaccivan will go where vaccination rates are lowest and infection rates are highest. She says her team will monitor the data on a daily basis to determine which regions these are.
"The younger people are very busy, they sometimes have a harder time to make the time to make an appointment," Tremblay said. "So if we're going to meet them in the park, I'm convinced that we're going to be able to vaccinate a bunch of people."
Sharon Nelson of the Jamaica Association of Montreal says bringing the vaccine to people, in the comfort of their own neighbourhoods, creates a more welcoming environment and will help combat vaccine hesitancy among people aged 20 to 50.
"There are pockets of the community that are somewhat hesitant," Nelson said. "Having a mobile van for vaccination right in the comfort or near where individuals are, I think it's a great idea."
Nelson says this initiative gives people who might otherwise be shy or have a fear of needles or be put off by clinical settings the opportunity to ask questions about the vaccine.
"People can go up and say 'tell me a little bit more about this,'" she said.
Doru Epure, another frequenter of Kent Park, says the initiative is beneficial for both youths and seniors, the latter being perhaps unfamiliar with the technology involved in booking a vaccine on the Clic Santé site.
"For younger people that sometimes might be lazy or don't want to get vaccinated, if [the Vaccivan] just comes up to them, they won't be as reluctant to get vaccinated as if they had to schedule two appointments," Epure said.
The van was initially created to bring the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna to people in the 18 to 35 age group, but Tremblay says anyone eligible for a vaccine can receive the shot.
"We want to go back to a normal life and vaccination is the only way that we're going to get there," she said.
Due to a delay in the next delivery of Pfizer vaccines, however, the Vaccivan will only offer Moderna for the time being and therefore only those 18 and older can receive a shot.
With files from Kwabena Oduro