People wait in line for their AstraZeneca vaccination Tuesday at the Cloverdale Recreation Centre. The drop-in clinic ran from 12:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. for people 30 years of age and older. According to a news release, the clinic was to support people who live in the ten high transmission neighbourhoods in the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks photo)

People wait in line for their AstraZeneca vaccination Tuesday at the Cloverdale Recreation Centre. The drop-in clinic ran from 12:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. for people 30 years of age and older. According to a news release, the clinic was to support people who live in the ten high transmission neighbourhoods in the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Lack of clear vaccine info from B.C. officials leading to rumours, distrust: advocates

People are turning to WhatsApp and other platforms to find vaccine vacancies

In past years, Kulpreet Singh’s neighbourhood group chats online have been filled with political discussion and questions about lost cats.

These days, however, phone app WhatsApp – a messaging platform – are full of inquiries the Lower Mainland resident never thought he would see.

“In my neighbourhood group, someone posted this morning, asking, does anyone know if there are any vaccination pop ups today?” Singh, the founder of the South Asian Mental Health Alliance, told Black Press Media by phone Thursday (April 29), just hours after Fraser Health suspended its much-maligned system of pop-up clinics.

“I would never imagine someone would be asking where to get vaccinated in my local neighbourhood group,” he said, adding that ideally, these details would be listed on the health authority website, with dates and the requirements, as well as a registration process and updates on daily spaces.

SFU professor Valorie Crooks agrees. The creator of the COVID-19 Risks in British Columbia’s Neighbourhoods project said that the “whisper network,” or informal spaces being used to share information, wasn’t working.

While vaccines were brought to high-risk neighbourhoods, Crooks said, what remained lacking was transparency.

The whole idea of a pop-up clinic may be flawed from the get-go. Pop-up shops, she noted, do rely on the idea of surprise and scarcity, but that might not be the route British Columbians want health officials to go.

Fraser Health ran 10 pop-up vaccine clinics, beginning April 24. At least four – Cloverdale, Surrey North, South Langley Township and Port Coquitlam – were announced only after they had already began, with many people standing in line for hours.

Fraser Health said 6,000 people were vaccinated, but apologized for their lack of communication about the clinics.

“People want to get a better understanding of how do we actually choose these sites? And also, how are we informing people about the availability of this,” Crooks said.

However, she sympathized with an attempt by Fraser Health to do what many had been asking; go into high-risk neighbourhoods directly.

“I think that having are doubling down on the idea of bringing vaccines into communities where the rates are high, or risks are high, is a positive thing,” Crooks said. “This is something that many public health experts across Canada and internationally have said is an effective strategy.”

But even as Fraser Health tried to push down some barriers to vaccination, Crooks said they created others by not spreading the word in a way that allowed all people, including vulnerable frontline workers, to access immunizations.

Singh said that the pop-ups likely damaged confidence in the vaccine rollout altogether.

“What I heard on site was an individual in my network, who went on-site at around 7:40 a.m. in the morning, he waited six hours to get his vaccination,” Singh said, noting that this person, like many others, received conflicting information about the number of doses available and who would get one.

Singh is glad that Fraser Health suspended their pop-up clinics to look for more equitable solutions. While both the health ministry and Fraser Health have said they’ve been in contact with the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) communities in hot spot zones, Singh said that bureaucracy has often gotten in the way of that.

READ MORE: Fraser Health apologizes for confusion, says no more COVID vaccine pop-up clinics planned

While there is little to no AstraZeneca in B.C. right now, health officials have said they will rethink the program when supply returns. Singh hopes that will involve using mobile clinics, similar to a program in Surrey, or family doctors to get the word out to their patients.

But Singh cautioned against making volunteers shoulder the burden of vaccine education and access like Toronto has done with the Vaccine Hunters Twitter account.

“Those groups, vaccine hunters, they’re putting labor to help and support people’s health and well being, whereas large systems already exist of people who are being paid to do these jobs.”

The rumours and lack of concrete information, Singh said, has only amplified the feelings of trauma and exhaustion already felt by many in the South Asian community.

“I’m concerned right now about frontline and essential workers, and especially new immigrants and international students who are going through different waves of trauma because of their family situation and home situation in India, with the second wave of COVID, and the farmer protests,” he said.

“Then on top of that working frontline, during the pandemic here in Canada, and then them not even able to get a vaccine in an equitable way is not really fair. The least we could do to respect them and the sacrifices that they’re making working on the front line is to make sure that they get the vaccine.”

B.C. is asking all adults to register for vaccines at https://www.getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca, even if they already received their first dose prior to registering. People in their 50s are being contacted to book immunization appointments in the coming days, while people ages 30 or 40 and up can get vaccinated at pharmacies.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusFraser Healthvaccines

Just Posted

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

From left: Councillor Lucy Taylor, Councillor Barry Banford, Councillor Bill Haring, Mayor Merlin Blackwell, Councillor Lynne Frizzle, Councillor Lyle Mckenzie and Councillor Shelley Sim. (District of Clearwater photo)
Intersections in Weyerhaeuser community could soon see some changes

A four-way stop and assessment are planned for two intersections in the community.

File photo
Encounter with suspicious man has Vavenby mother concerned

The man was driving a red car and asked her 11-year-old daughter for her address as she walked home.

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Child sex crimes charges against Interior’s top doc won’t impact pandemic response: Dix

Dr. Albert de Villiers is charged with sexual assault and sexual interference

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Interior Health top doctor released on bail after sex crimes charges involving child

Dr. Albert de Villiers was arrested on two Alberta charges in Kelowna on Tuesday

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

Most Read