Mass vaccination clinics are coming to Windsor-Essex: Where should they go?
The health unit says two will be in Windsor, possibly three in the county
As the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit gears up to provide COVID-19 vaccines to the masses, part of the process requires it to choose the ideal locations for people to go to get their shots.
Four mass vaccination clinics, and a potential fifth, will likely be set up across Windsor-Essex by April. To date, as the health unit continues to complete Phase 1 priority of the vaccine rollout, the only site it has set up is at St. Clair College's Sportsplex.
Another site is currently in the works, with Windsor Regional Hospital and the University of Windsor partnering up to convert Windsor Hall into a vaccine clinic for the city's downtown.
Windsor-Essex County Health Unit's (WECHU) CEO Theresa Marentette said an epidemiologist at the health unit has also mapped out other parts of the city and the county that are "best suited" for mass immunization clinics.
"[They're] based on not only where COVID cases are, but based on where populations are that would be able to easily access the clinics in their area," she said.
This map from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit shows parts of the region with high case rates. If the map doesn't work, you can click here.
She added that the clinic at the Sportsplex will likely move to another spot in Windsor, which will be determined based on data to ensure it "meets the needs of Windsor residents."
Throughout the county, she said there will likely be another two spots and possibly a third — though that depends on the amount of vaccine the region receives.
Last week, the health unit met with the local municipalities and discussed the layout of these clinics across the region, Marentette said.
'Meet people where they are'
As for what should be top of mind when placing these clinics, co-founder of the South Asian Health Network in Toronto Sabina Vohra-Miller told CBC News that accessibility is essential.
"What we need to remember is that a one size fits all in terms of a vaccination site very often leaves behind those who are marginalized and have been sort of left behind this entire pandemic," said Vohra-Miller, who has a background in clinical pharmacology and done work around vaccine hesitancy.
"So when selecting a site you have to make sure it's accessible."
Putting these clinics in places that don't require people to use a car or public transit, like a community centre, would be helpful, she said.
She also noted that public health officials need to consider setting up clinics in spaces that people from diverse communities feel most comfortable in, such as a community health organization or religious setting.
This would allow people to go into spaces they are familiar with and talk to people from their own communities as they go to get vaccinated, she said, adding that the United Kingdom has successfully done this in mosques and Hindu temples.
She said it's also important to target hard hit areas, which may be areas that house people who work essential jobs.
"We know that people usually living in these high transmission areas are those who are working in frontline essential roles, those in precarious employment, they are very often under or uninsured, they don't have any workers benefits as well and many of them actually live in multi-generational housing ... where they also have parents and grandparents living within the same homes," she said.
As for when it comes to migrant workers, she suggested that the health unit go directly to those groups to make sure that they have direct access to the vaccine.
"Meeting people where they are is incredibly important," she said.
Along with site selection, Marentette said the health unit is working out staffing details and looking at having municipalities fill the non-medical roles at the clinics. The vaccines will be distributed by a team of about 40 nurses, with eight stationed at each site, she added.
The clinics will likely operate 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
Vohra-Miller said the ideal would be to have a vaccination clinic that's open around the clock to support racialized or marginalized groups that often don't work a regular 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job.