Vulnerable members of the community and those who work with them got their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine this week.
The Couchiching Ontario Health Team, with support from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and other community partners, held a vaccination clinic at The Sharing Place Food Centre, where 95 people received shots of the Moderna vaccine.
Physicians and nurses also administered vaccines to five people who were new participants in the Lighthouse’s hotel shelter program and 16 people who were homebound.
“We know that folks who are housing or food insecure or struggling with the essentials are at greater risk of poor health outcomes, and COVID can create more serious health effects for them,” said Kim McIntosh, physician lead with the Couchiching Ontario Health Team. “Therefore, we really want to get ahead of those infections in the community, especially during a third wave.”
Administering the vaccine was a moving experience for McIntosh. She knew it was a way to bring the community one step closer to getting to the point when kids can start playing organized sports again, those who have been put out of work can return to their jobs, and people can hug their friends and loved ones.
She became emotional when speaking about it.
“The pandemic has certainly shown us many of the places in our society where the resources aren’t there. We’re missing a lot of the key ingredients that make us feel whole,” she said.
“I want my own loved ones protected. I want my patients protected. I want my colleagues protected. I want our vulnerable folks protected because they’re already struggling,” she added.
Sharing Place executive Chris Peacock is well aware of that, so he was happy to accommodate the vaccine clinic inside the Dufferin Street facility on a rainy day when it had been planned for outside the Lighthouse.
“The Sharing Place is a trusted place, and the ability to have it administered in a familiar environment helps,” he said.
When people got their shots, “there were lots of smiles and cheers,” he said.
That goes for Sharing Place staff and volunteers, too, who were able to get vaccinated. Peacock was one of them.
“I got vaccinated. I’m proud of it, and it’s important to get that message out there,” he said.
The Lighthouse has been the site of previous vaccination clinics. Some of its clients took part in the clinic this week at The Sharing Place.
“A positive case can happen at any time, and those who are in the vulnerable population tend to have more complex health issues,” said Lighthouse executive director Linda Goodall.
Most of the Lighthouse clients who received the vaccine were “very thankful,” she said, but added some “still have that fear.”
McIntosh, too, knows some people aren’t sure about the vaccines. She urges people to consult with a trusted source, such as a primary care provider.
“There are many ways to gain vaccine confidence,” she said. “The vaccines are safe and they are much needed.”
She encourages people to visit the province’s COVID-19 vaccine booking website to check their eligibility and get vaccinated as soon as they can.
Even after people receive their first doses, they need to continue to follow guidelines, McIntosh stressed, noting the virus can be contracted after someone gets the first dose, but the symptoms are less severe.
“Vaccination isn’t a reason to not wear a mask or keep your distance or wash your hands,” she said.
She praised all of the partners who have been involved in vaccination clinics since January, representing more than 100 people.
“It’s all folks wanting to do good work for the right reason for the right population so we can get through this pandemic,” she said. “It’s one of the most remarkable partnerships in the history of partnerships in health care in the province.”