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

Dr. Omar Ahmad, Island Health department head of emergency and critical care medicine (left to right), Avery Brohman, Island Health executive director, and Joe O’Rourke, Seaspan Victoria Shipyards vice-president and general manager, highlight a recent $2.65 million donation toward the Its Critical campaign. (Victoria Hospitals Foundation)
Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s It’s Critical campaign exceeds $7 million fundraising goal

Funds going towards equipment and a permanent High Acuity Unit

Victoria-born, 16-time Grammy winning musician David Foster penned a letter to the Greater Victoria School District May 7 urging them not to cut music programs. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
David Foster joins fight to save music in Greater Victoria School District

‘Music is the great equalizer’ Foster wrote in a letter to the district

‘Nindanikoobijiganag: We are Star People’ by Mississauga Nishnaabe Lucbanin artist Estrella Whetung. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Victoria beadwork exhibit speaks to evolving, enduring nature of Indigenous art

On Beaded Ground features work from West Coast artists and a Cedar Hill Middle School group

Former Victoria HarbourCat and Chicago White Sox player Andrew Vaughn. (Photo courtesy of Chicago White Sox)
Former Victoria HarbourCat hits first MLB home run, adds another two days later

Andrew Vaughn is the first HarbourCat alumni to hit a homer in the majors

A seniors housing complex proposed for Cedar Hill Road in Saanich was supported by council after a public hearing on May 12. (Rendering by Jenson Group Architects)
New 85-unit seniors housing development gets green light from Saanich council

Four-storey rental complex would be located on Cedar Hill Road

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Most Read