Why this homeless man is worried he'll miss his chance at a COVID-19 shot

A homeless man in Charlottetown is worried he'll miss out on his chance to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

'They should have more places open for the homeless to get their vaccination'

'I worry about, day by day, people I bump into. I don't know who has [COVID-19] and who doesn't. Nobody says nothing,' said Stacy Couglin. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

For Stacy Coughlin, following public health protocols isn't easy. 

He's homeless, and spends each day searching for a place to spend his night. 

"One day I can be on a couch, the next day I'll be somewhere's else, the next day somewhere's else," said Coughlin. 

"So I worry about, day by day, the people I bump into. I don't know who has [COVID-19] and who doesn't. Nobody says nothing. I don't know."

It's why the 33-year-old is so anxious to get vaccinated. He's also worried he'll miss his chance.

Public health officials held a vaccination clinic at the Community Outreach Centre in Charlottetown earlier this week. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

"I just want to know, a guy like me, how would I get the vaccine? How would I be able to know when it's my turn or not?" he said. 

"There should be more places where people like me living on the street can go in and get their shot."

Clinic at Community Outreach Centre 

One day this week, public health officials did set up a vaccination clinic at the Community Outreach Centre in downtown Charlottetown, and opened it up to anyone staying at homeless shelters, along with other clients of the centre. 

The outreach centre offers various supports to Islanders experiencing homelessness, from help finding work and a place to live, to counselling and internet access. 

"We had reached out to all the homeless shelters.… We spoke to them and they identified that the outreach centre would be a good place to hold the clinic," said Dr. Heather Morrison, the province's chief public health officer. 

We're trying to narrow those gaps in this very challenging rollout of the vaccine program.— Dr. Heather Morrison

No one from the outreach centre or the province would say how many people got their first dose of the vaccine at the clinic. 

In an email to CBC, a spokesperson for Health PEI said: "We did not do public advertisement for these clinics but relied more on sites themselves to help spread the word to clients/individuals whom they know."

For Coughlin's part, he says he hadn't heard about the clinic at the outreach centre. 

He worries now, he's missed out on an opportunity to get the vaccine. 

"I just want the right information or anything. I just don't know who to talk to about any of this," he said. 

"I just hope I can get [vaccinated] soon."

Stacy Coughlin says he'd like to see more vaccination clinics set up for people like him, who are homeless. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Morrison said her office and other government staff are working hard to ensure people are informed about how and when they can get the vaccine. 

Though she acknowledges, it's challenging to reach everyone. 

"We're trying to narrow those gaps in this very challenging rollout of the vaccine program," she said.

"We also know there'll be lots of communication as well around mass clinics, in a relatively short period of time. So if we can reach people in one way that's great. If not, there'll be opportunities to attend other vaccine clinics."

More clinics? 

A second vaccination clinic will be set up at the outreach centre in a few weeks, where clients can get their second dose. 

Public health officials haven't said whether they plan to schedule any more clinics for people experiencing homelessness beyond that. 

"We will continue to work with community partners to ensure individuals wishing to receive vaccine are able to receive their immunization at scheduled clinics and to identify the need for additional plans for vaccinations moving forward," the spokesperson for Health PEI said in the email.

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