While the COVID-19 vaccination rate is climbing in B.C., there are still some parts of the province with lower overall coverage. In the Fraser Health region, health officials are hoping to reach more people who haven’t had their first vaccine yet by offering more accessible clinics with same-day shots.
Maha Sarraf recieved her first COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday at an immunization clinic on the King George Highway in Surrey.
“I feel good. I feel a bit nervous, but I feel good. I feel excited to get the vaccine. I feel a lot of hope,” she said, and added she moved to B.C. from Uganda not long ago and is looking forward to travelling internationally again. “I miss the connections, even on the streets. Even with strangers.”
The site is operating as a so-called EASI clinic, which stands for Easy Accessible Same-day Immunization, and will prioritize first doses. It’s open to anyone living in Fraser Health, including those without personal health numbers, and people who are not B.C. residents.
The health authority’s executive medical director for population and public health Dr. Ingrid Tyler said clinic staff can help with registration on site if needed, and vaccinations take place the same day.
“The EASI idea is a model for accessibility, so it can move around our various existing clinic sites based on our available supply of vaccine,” she said, and added this model of clinic will become available at different sites over the next several weeks and through the summer.
“We’re being as creative as possible to help people have opportunities for vaccination.”
Neighbourhood clinics will also be offered for first doses, targeting specific communities. Staff will check for proof of residence, and wristbands will be issued for same-day appointments to avoid long waits.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said sometimes complacency is a factor in more rural communities, where transmission rates are not high and it takes more effort to find a vaccine.
“We know that most people are doing the right thing and getting on board and coming to the clinics, but for some people, it’s more of a challenge,” she said. “We know we reach a certain level, and then we have to take different strategies to reach people.”
While the EASI clinics will prioritize first doses, second doses are still happening, too.
Andrea Brown and her husband John both got their second vaccines at the Surrey clinic Thursday.
“We can’t tell you how much we’ve been looking forward to this. We have family in Alberta that we haven’t seen since the end of 2019,” Andrea said. “And we miss them a lot.”
“It means that I can hug my daughters again,” John said.
For information on ongoing and upcoming EASI clinics, and planned neighbourhood clinics, a list of dates and locations is listed on the Fraser Health Authority website.