Despite the long lines, residents of Thorncliffe Park are ‘delighted’ to receive the blow at this pop-up clinic

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Karon Liu


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With the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in his arm, Sam Chowdhury is hopeful that by this fall, he can take in-person classes at the University of Toronto after spending his first year of college at home. The 18-year-old electrical engineering student waited for about three hours at a pop-up vaccination clinic in the parking lot of the Masjid Darus Salaam Mosque, located across from the Iqbal Halal Foods grocer in Thorncliffe Park, this weekend. Organizers were hoping the clinic would attract area residents who are preparing for the start of Ramadan on Tuesday.

“My brother is also in line and my parents have already had their chance,” he said. “I expected to have to wait until July (for the vaccine) so I feel relieved but just hope it gets better. I’m worried about other communities that have been really affected, but it helps fill this gap. “

Chowdhury was among hundreds of people who arrived hours before the clinic opened on Saturday morning. Lines meandered around the block like water bottles, being handed out, and staff directing people and answering questions. About 1,300 first doses were given on Saturday. Organizers said the clinic would be open on Sunday as well as until the doses are exhausted.

First-come, first-served pop-up vaccination clinics are open to anyone over the age of 18 and are intended to rapidly vaccinate neighborhoods that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, areas that are often home to large essential worker populations. The initiative is led by East Toronto Health Partners, which includes Michael Garron Hospital and community organizations Flemingdon Health Center, Health Access Thorncliffe Park and The Neighborhood Organization (TNO).

Esel Panlaqui, head of community development and special projects at TNO, said that over the past four months, community ambassadors have been knocking on doors; post leaflets on COVID-19 support at bus stops, apartment halls and shops; call residents to make sure they know how and where to get vaccinated; and receive public health training to answer any questions residents have about vaccines.

“We are very happy that there are so many people who want to do their part and make their community safer,” said Panlaqui of the participation, who also documented the day by taking photos and videos. “We want future generations of Thorncliffe Park to have something to refer to to see the residents’ commitment to helping each other.

For residents who can’t stand in line, Panlaqui adds that TNO is helping them make appointments for those who qualify at the mass vaccination clinic near the Thorncliffe Park community center in downtown D ‘East York. They also help with transportation and language translations for those who need it.

TNO Community Ambassador Denise Gokool, who lives in Flemingdon Park, was on hand to lead residents and answer questions that day. “Our goal is to make everyone aware of the relevant facts,” she said. “When they see our faces and know we took the time to reach out, people were responsive.”

Shumaila Ansari stood in line for about four hours with her husband and sister. The 35-year-old woman on maternity leave says she found out about the clinic via social media and her father saw flyers about it while shopping in Iqbal. “I received a WhatsApp message and I was in contact with sources in our neighborhood to get my mother vaccinated,” she said. “I’m excited and I want to end this. I am happy that they are opening this up for all age groups.

“All of this requires multiple strategies,” said Jen Quinlan, CEO of Flemingdon Health Center, on how to vaccinate a neighborhood. “For some people, they don’t have time to pre-book an appointment to be able to go to the pop-up clinic. We also have the mass vaccination center for people who cannot stand in line. We also went to specific apartment buildings so they could just go down to the yard. We need to meet people where they are. “

Additional clinics will appear in other priority neighborhoods in the coming weeks.

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