COVID-19: Confusion reigns as Surrey pop-up vaccine clinic closes before it opens

Hundreds showed up on Thursday hoping for a vaccine from a pair of Surrey pop-up clinics that never happened

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A pop-up clinic mix-up had a stream of vehicles circling the parking lot at Surrey’s Bear Creek Park on Thursday, wondering where the long lineup for COVID-19 vaccines was to start.

Avi Naidu rolled down his window to ask the gathered media: “Do you know if there is a vaccine clinic?”

Naidu arrived at the park after his wife, who works at a local fast-food restaurant, tipped him off about a walk-up vaccine clinic, because “this was close to home. I was 10 minutes away.”

Satveer Sidhu arrived with her parents, both in their 60s, hoping to get them vaccinated, and also wondered where the lineup was.

There were among several locals who heard about the clinic online or by word of mouth and arrived to discover that more than four hours earlier, police had arrived to tell the 200 to 300 people who were first in line there would be no pop-up on Thursday. And there likely won’t be another one anywhere.

At a pop-up clinic in Newton on Wednesday, tempers flared after hundreds were turned away when the shots ran out. More than 6,000 vaccines were given out at clinics in Newton and Coquitlam over two days.


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The clinics opened without advance notice, as large lineups formed in Coquitlam on Tuesday and in Newton (for 18-plus) on Wednesday, with some waiting up to five hours in vain in Surrey.

“I sincerely apologize for any negative experiences people may have had,” said Fraser Health CEO Dr. Victoria Lee on Thursday. “The intent was to ensure that we reach out to the high-risk community as quickly as possible.”

She said Fraser Health is “brainstorming” to come up with a better way, possibly through the use of an app for smartphones.

The clinics offering priority vaccines to anyone over 30 were among those planned in B.C.’s 13 neighbourhoods with the highest COVID transmissions. Ten are in the Fraser Health region.

Rather than have people register with a pharmacy for a dwindling number of AstraZeneca doses, or with the province for the age-based rollout, the pop-ups were intended to reach a high volume of people in those areas with high COVID counts.

But there were concerns that people under 30 or people who had already received a first dose were getting the jab ahead of locals.

Health Minister Adrian Dix confirmed that some people who did not live in the high-transmission neighbourhoods were given the AstraZeneca vaccine at the pop-up on Tuesday in Coquitlam, making up three per cent of the total.

Lee said no more pop-ups were planned and she encouraged people to register with the provincefor an eventual booking.

“We could have done better in terms of communication, and we acknowledge that,” said Dix. “On the communications, absolutely we’re going to be better.”


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Other enterprising vaccine seekers lined up outside a pharmacy chain outlet in the nearby Cedar Hills strip mall in Surrey on Thursday.

Five people were waiting outside the door, despite a sign on the door saying there were no more appointments. The pharmacy had received 80 doses of AstraZeneca to distribute by appointment, and all were accounted for, a staffer told those waiting.

Al Williams and Ryan Caron, both in their 30s and both from Vancouver, decided to stay.

“We’re coming up next,” said Williams.

They had heard about the pharmacy by a group called vaccine hunters on Twitter and said they wouldn’t leave until the last appointment was finished.

It paid off as they and Lalkar Dosanjh, 48, of Chilliwack, got their jabs.

But Gagan Aulakh, 38, of Delta, left the lineup before being let in. He said he wasn’t worried because “everyone is going to get a vaccine.”

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