Paramedics have started vaccinating vulnerable Windsor residents in their homes
Mobile clinics started Thursday, expected to continue
For the first time in Windsor-Essex, the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was brought directly to people living in the community, and not just those in retirement or long-term care homes.
On Thursday, paramedics with Essex-Windsor EMS went door-to-door of a Windsor apartment building and asked seniors who were 80 and older if they'd like to get the first dose of the vaccine. In the first day, 44 people were given a shot.
This is the first known mobile vaccine clinic in the region to accommodate accessibility issues and give doses to some of the region's most vulnerable.
Essex-Windsor EMS captain in professional standards Stacey Shepley said the experience was "humbling."
"A lot of [the pandemic] has been us doing the COVID swabs to test where it is, so this is the first time where we've been able to do something about it, to be able to fight this virus off. We're providing them with something to fight this off, to give them a fair chance," said Shepley, who is also the Vulnerable Patient Navigator (VPN) lead.
"This is a huge step in the right direction to show that we can assist with filling some of the gaps in our community."
Before a mass vaccination clinic for people 80 and older opened at Windsor's WFCU Centre on March 1, CBC News talked to local seniors who raised accessibility concerns for people who faced transportation, mobility or technological barriers.
Now, those people are being met where they live.
WATCH: Essex-Windsor's Stacey Shepley talks about how the residents reacted
In response to having the vaccine brought to them, Shepley said people were "grateful."
"A lot of relief from them, relief that they now know they received the first vaccine," she said. "They were excited and honoured that we came to them as opposed to them having to find their way around."
She said the people they served wouldn't have been able to get the vaccine any other way as many of them don't have phones or access to technology to book an appointment. Many also have mobility issues or disabilities related to their eyesight and hearing, she said.
To keep it as safe and efficient as possible, Shepley said the paramedics didn't enter people's apartments, but helped them get to a common area so they could be vaccinated and monitored in one space.
The VPN team will continue to vaccinate eligible residents of the building and then move on to another, with six other buildings currently on their radar.
Shepley said the first day of the mobile clinic went smoothly, though they are conscious of their personal protective equipment use since some people rely on lip reading. She said they need to wear clear facial masks that allow their faces to be seen.
"It is quite a monumental moment and historic moment for our program and our community," she said. "I think we're just very thankful to have been a part [of it], to allow ourselves into this building and help these individuals."
In an email to CBC News Friday, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) said it is working with Essex-Windsor EMS to offer these mobile clinics to people in phase 1 of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.
WECHU said that people are not able to sign up at this time, but that it is working with local partners to identify "high risk groups and to coordinate the registration process" for the mobile clinics.