Island Health is opening a mass vaccine clinic at Archie Browning Sports Centre in Esquimalt this week as it tries to cut down wait times for COVID-19 vaccine booster appointments.
Set to open Friday (Jan. 7), the site is the first of multiple mass clinics which, combined, aim to provide 40,000 vaccine booster appointments weekly, Island Health chief public health officer Dr. Richard Stanwick said at a briefing in the former curling rink Wednesday.
Clinics are also planned for the SEAPARC Leisure Complex in Sooke – due to open in two weeks – as well as the University Heights Mall in Saanich.
Stanwick said Island Health is now primarily focused on getting people age 18 and over their booster vaccines. Prior to now, the booster program has concentrated on vaccinating those at elevated risk, such as people with compromised immune systems, healthcare workers and the elderly.
But booking an appointment has been challenging for some in that group.
Nazar Osman, owner and pharmacist at Atlas Pharmacy on Goldstream Avenue in Langford, said he struggled to get an appointment himself at the beginning of the month and knows many other people working in healthcare have had similar challenges.
“When you receive your invitation, you can find there’s only appointments like two or three weeks (later),” he said. “It’s very hard to find a nearby one and because you’re dealing with people every day, the sooner the better.”
Osman started reaching out to doctor’s offices and first responder stations around Langford to offer up cancelled appointments to professionals in the first target group who hadn’t yet received a booster. So far only a handful of cancellations have occurred each day, but recent weather has seen those numbers increase, he said.
While the new clinic at Archie Browning and the future ones in Sooke and University Heights will help, pharmacies give people other options to receive the booster, Stanwick said. “We’re really counting on the local pharmacists to fill that gap, so they are critical.”
People who have booked an appointment for a couple weeks from now should check the schedule again, he added, as they may now be able to get an earlier appointment.