Vaccinations begin for homeless population

Starting Thursday, clients and staff in Ottawa's six homeless shelters will receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

All 6 of Ottawa's shelters experienced an outbreak during the pandemic

About 860 homeless people in Ottawa will be getting a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, starting this week. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Starting Thursday, clients and staff at Ottawa's six homeless shelters will receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Shelters were initially part of the second phase of the city's vaccine rollout plan, but according to city officials, the Ontario government is looking to target facilities that have been subject to serious outbreaks.

"COVID-19 has had a significant impact on Ottawa's shelter system," said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches during a virtual media briefing Wednesday.

Etches confirmed that all of the city's shelters have experienced an outbreak and that "one-quarter of the clients, about 220 people, having tested positive for the virus since mid-January."

COVID-19 vaccinations to begin at Ottawa shelters

CBC News Ottawa

2 months ago
Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, says all of the city’s shelters have experienced an outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic and that the upcoming vaccinations will keep residents and staff safe. 0:34

There are about 860 clients currently in the city's shelter system. People will be screened and will need to consult with a health-care provider before getting vaccinated.

"With vaccination, it will mean that a lot fewer people will be able to get COVID and therefore a lot fewer people will be able to transmit COVID," said Wendy Muckle, CEO of Ottawa Inner City Health, who's also advocated for Ottawa's homeless to be vaccinated.

Shelters can increase capacity

Muckle said it's likely not everyone will be vaccinated in the first round, so there will still be some infection and transmission "but it will be on a much smaller scale" that before. 

She said it's likely that shelters will slowly be able to increase their capacities and support programs that were put on hold can resume.

Ottawa Inner City Health will also be working on a flexible schedule with shelters to make sure everyone who's homeless can get the shot, Muckle said. The organization is aiming to have all first doses done over the next two weeks. Second doses will be given two weeks after that.

Those not staying at a shelter are still eligible to be vaccinated through outreach centres.

The city is beginning vaccinations for the homeless population today, with the first clinic open at the Ottawa Mission. We speak to Wendy Muckle, the CEO of Ottawa Inner City Health. 6:50

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