City asking residents not to visit pop-up vaccine clinics if not from neighbourhood

The head of Ottawa's local vaccination rollout is asking residents who do not live in neighbourhoods that are being specifically targeted by pop-up vaccination clinics to avoid traveling to those clinics to get a vaccine.

Emergency and protective services general manager Anthony Di Monte told reporters that about 200 people were turned away from a clinic at the Howard Darwin Centennial Arena Wednesday morning because they didn't live in the two priority neighbourhoods the drop-in clinic was meant for.

There’s a pop-up vaccination clinic tomorrow at the Howard Darwin Arena that is only for residents of Parkwood Hills & Stewart Farm who are 18+. Please help us reach priority neighbourhoods by leaving the limited spots for these #OttCity residents! pic.twitter.com/MLIWudIEU9

— City of Ottawa (@ottawacity) May 12, 2021

"If you don't live in those neighbourhoods, please don't go to these clinics," Di Monte said. "These clinics are to be able to get to these individuals who need a different pathway to be able to get a vaccine."

On Monday and Tuesday, staff at the clinic granted appointments to residents of any of the city’s 21 high-priority neighbourhoods. But on Wednesday, anyone living outside the Parkwood Hills and Stewart Farm communities was turned away.

Medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she is pleased to see so many people interested in being vaccinated, but she stressed that some community members have more difficulty accessing the vaccines than others.

"There are people who have transportation barriers, who have language barriers, who don't have access to the internet to book. It is important to have other options besides the big community clinics for people who might not be vaccinated otherwise," Etches said.

"If you're in a broader population group, with more access through community-based clinics, use the provincial booking system. It's very soon going to be available to anyone 18 and older across the city and that's the channel we encourage everyone to use as it becomes open to them."

Proof of address is needed to access the pop-up clinics but Etches said staff on-site are hesitant to turn people away if there's still space in the clinic. Where it becomes an issue, she said, is when large numbers of people start to show up.

"When word gets out and people come from further afield and if it's looking like the numbers showing up are going to displace the population that is really meant to be served by these pop-ups, that becomes an issue," she said.

Ottawa Public Health says on its website that pop-up clinics are not widely advertised to the general public.

"Eligible residents will be notified of clinic and registration options through a targeted approach which may include door-to-door outreach, multilingual posters in the neighbourhood, and e-mails," OPH says. "At this time, these pop-up clinics are not advertised widely to the greater public as the intent is to reach individuals in specified areas. There is no phone-in or online option to book at this time and there may not be any walk-up availability."

Board of Health chair coun. Keith Egli said about 2,400 residents who may have otherwise struggled to be vaccinated will have received a vaccine through the three-day clinic at the Howard Darwin Centennial Arena. 

George Briggs lives in the neighbourhood of Stewart Farm. While there are many residents in the area eligible to receive a shot, his home address is not on that list. When he arrived at the Howard Darwin Centennial arena pop-up clinic Wednesday afternoon, the crowds had left, only those with appointment cards could get a shot.

"They say that because postal code is not in the area I can’t get my shot although I life in the area."

"It’s frustrating," says Briggs. "They’ve done maybe half a dozen people in the last 15 minutes yet I can’t get my shot."

"I’m really ticked about it," says Briggs. "I mean obviously there's not much going on here, they're having like one person come in for a shot every five, ten minutes and it’s a complete waste of resources. Now I’m not saying that we can’t spend the money on it, but let's work smart. This country has to be smart to get through this in a hurry."