Mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic aimed at immunizing Calgary's most vulnerable

A mobile immunization clinic is rolling through Calgary with the goal of providing COVID-19 vaccines to marginalized people, including those who are homeless, in supportive living facilities, temporary foreign workers and First Nations peoples living on reserves.

The Aisokinakio’p Indigenous-led mobile clinic is operated by Siksika Health Services in partnership with the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary (AFCC), OKAKI, Seven Brothers Circle, the Calgary Homeless Foundation, Métis Nation of Alberta Region 3, BeTheChangeYYC and the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS).

Tyler White, CEO of Siksika Health Services, says the goal is to get as many shots into arms as possible in a culturally-safe way.

“The mobile immunization outreach clinic is fully equipped to immunize people where they are at, and to ensure our most vulnerable members are able to receive their vaccine in the comfort of their own home," he said.

When the mobile clinic isn’t out at a targeted location in the city, it will be set up three-days-a-week outside the Aisokinakio’p Immunization Clinic, located at the Best Western Premier Calgary Plaza Hotel and Conference Centre (1316 33rd Steet N.E.).

The remaining days it will be used to administer shots on the Siksika First Nation.

Chaz Smith with BeTheChangeYYC says the outreach is significant because many people who experience homelessness in Calgary don’t often trust the current health care systems in place or have accessibility to book a vaccine through traditional means like the phone or online.

“This accessibility means people will get vaccinated who previously are not getting vaccinated or who might not have access to health care,” he said.

“There is an inherit distrust in the system. Many people feel failed from the system, the shelters, the service providers so, they choose to sleep rough. So, for us that means we can directly bring that healthcare to the population."

Beth Woyths, the Urban Indigenous COVID-19 Clinic director, says everything needed for an immunization clinic is stored in the vehicle.

“The vehicle has special tires so if we take this on reserve we can handle road conditions, it’s equipped with an awning so we can handle rain or sun situations, we have tables and chairs already prepped, it has a fridge inside that can keep our vaccine to the correct temperatures," she said.

The vehicle also has images of warriors battling disease on the vehicle from visualist, filmmaker and author, Steven Paul Judd.

Similar mobile clinics in other communities cost about $80,000 and the initiative is  being funded in part by the federal government.