'If they’re not coming to us we know we need to go to them': Waterloo Region, Guelph shift vaccination strategy

The effort to reach more people who still need one – or both – COVID-19 shots has led to some innovative approaches in Waterloo Region and Guelph.

Organizers in the vaccine rollout say they’re shifting strategies to bring vaccines directly to residents.

MORE: 23 new COVID-19 cases reported Saturday in Waterloo Region

On Friday night a pop-up clinic was set up in Guelph’s outdoor dining district.

“It was really smooth and simple,” said Tamara Alkinani. “It went really, really quickly.”

She was one of more than 90 people who got their shot on the street.

“Having something like this, so easily accessible to everybody,” she said. “I can pop in after work and get my vaccine done. It’s amazing.”

Public Health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph organized the clinic for a very specific demographic.

“One area that we’re really low on is our under 30 population,” says Rita Isley, the Operations Chief for the COVID-19 vaccine clinics. “We just figured, we’ve done our ask for people to come to us, and if they’re not coming to us we know we need to go to them.”

Isley says people were already lining up for shots ahead of the clinic’s opening.

“If we can make getting vaccinated the easy choice, and easily accessible by coming to where they are, we are hoping to get some of those people that are sitting on the fence.”

Getting a shot couldn’t be easier, according to some of the people helping out at Friday night’s clinic.

“We have three paramedics wandering around the tables,” said paramedic Gar Fitzgerald. “While people are dining and enjoying themselves on the patio, they are able to register them and give them their vaccine while they’re still sitting there.”

“I have never vaccinated outside, I’ve never prepped a vaccine outside,” said nurse Shelby Leanders. “People are having dinner over there, it’s pretty surreal.”

Waterloo Region’s task force, meanwhile, is also bringing vaccines to the people.

Public health’s vaccine bus stopped at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market Saturday morning.

“Being able to bring the vaccine to a public place like this is definitely going to help push the vaccination rate up in our region,” said Max Wyld at the Pinebush Vaccination Clinic.

The operation included ambassadors who went into the market to let people know it was parked outside.

Shots were given out to those who needed their first or second dose.

“I’ve had quite a few people saying I was going to reschedule it because my dose is at the end of August, and then now that you guys are here, that’s great, I can get it now,” said Wyld.

“When I was in, all the seats were filled,” said Sydney Mellon who got her second shot on the bus. “I think everyone wants to get it done and over with.”

Waterloo Region now has two vaccine buses in operation. They will be making stops at other locations including Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener, Conestoga Mall in Waterloo and downtown Elmira.