Drive-thru services are no longer just for cafes or burgers; The GTA’s first COVID-19 drive-thru vaccination site opens Monday at Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughan.
In Wonderland, York Public Health could potentially vaccinate 1,600 people a day once the drive-thru is fully operational, spokesman Patrick Casey said.
“These clinics provide an opportunity for many people who may be homebound or who feel more comfortable in their vehicle,” Casey said, adding that 500 homebound clients were vaccinated during a test on March 18.
A maximum of four people per vehicle can be vaccinated – provided they meet the eligibility criteria and have made an appointment in advance. They will receive the Pfizer or Moderna kick, depending on availability.
Customers can walk through the clinic entirely in their vehicle, moving through four areas set up in the parking lot; entry and screening, registration, vaccination and a 15-minute observation period. There will be four lanes and four mobile vaccination units on site.
Several other drive-thru vaccination clinics have operated across Ontario, including sites in the Ottawa and Peterborough area, although no plans are yet in Toronto.
Grace Peacock, spokesperson for Canada’s Wonderland, said the organization was “proud to support York Region” in its mass vaccination campaign.
“We plan to support their efforts for as long as we are able to do so operationally,” Peacock said of the amusement park, which is scheduled to reopen on May 14.
In addition to Canada’s Wonderland, York has planned two other drive-through services; one is slated to open in mid-April, at SoccerCity in Stouffville, and another at Markham Fairgrounds, whose opening is not yet determined. The SoccerCity site could be open to residents from across Ontario, but will prioritize York residents first.
Although drive-thru venues are more common in U.S. cities, a new vaccine driving simulation developed by York University researchers is helping organizations optimize the drive-thru method in Ontario and the south from the border.
Ali Asgary of York University, one of the researchers, said agencies could use simulation to determine operational criteria, such as the number of lanes needed to meet hourly immunization goals, and forecast times for average expectation.
“A lot of these drive-thru clinics have to be set up in a very short period of time, which doesn’t leave enough time for agencies to design them,” said Asgary, director of advanced simulation for disasters, emergencies and rapid interventions. “A tool like this can help them customize their model as quickly as possible for their particular setup… and help them find gaps and issues that may arise.”
Asgary worked with Renfrew County health officials to plan three drive-thru vaccination clinics for frontline regional health workers. In the last clinic – installed in the parking lot of the Arnpior district secondary school – 265 health workers were vaccinated within two hours.
Using the Asgary simulation, UC Health, a Colorado-based nonprofit health care system, was able to immunize 10,000 people in 12 hours over a weekend. The average time to complete the entire process, including the 15-minute observation period, was 22.4 minutes per car. The Calgary team is currently working with Chicago-based Cook County Health to prepare their drive-thru for operation.
In comparison, one of the very first vaccination sites in the Greater Toronto Area, located on the Progress Campus of Centennial College in Scarborough, was able to vaccinate a maximum of 2,000 people per day when fully operational. The entire walk-in process – including screening, registration, vaccination and the 15-minute observation period – lasted an average of half an hour.
Some areas, including Toronto, York, and Peel, offer COVID-19 vaccines to residents born in 1946 or earlier. Starting Monday, all Ontarians aged 75 and over (born 1946 and earlier) can begin scheduling COVID-19 vaccine appointments through the province’s reservation portal.
Asgary said there are several advantages to drive-thru: large numbers of people can be vaccinated in a short period of time; they are more comfortable for the vaccinated (if they are well organized); and above all, the problem of virus transmission to drive-thrus is minimal.
Drive-thrus also helps reduce pressure on other types of mass clinics in traditional settings.
“The problem is that it is probably not possible to vaccinate a large number of people in a short period of time using small-scale clinics,” he added. “If you could… you might not need drive-thru.”
Torontonians wanting to roll up their sleeves for a COVID-19 hit through a car window will have to wait. The vaccine supply must increase before city officials consider this possibility, city spokesman Brad Ross said.
“Opening up vaccination opportunities as supplies become available, like drive-thru clinics, is something (Toronto) is exploring, but no decision has yet been made on that,” Ross said. . “The vaccine supply guides all clinic planning decisions. But nothing is on the table.
So To date, more than 419,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Toronto. Four city-run immunization clinics are open, including one just opened in Thorncliffe Park, a partnership between East Toronto Health Partners and Michael Garron Hospital.
Two more city-run clinics will open on March 29, another on April 5 and the last three in mid-April, totaling 10 vaccination sites, Ross said.
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