The vaccine’s rollout among Toronto’s homeless population has slowed dramatically due to an increase in COVID-19 outbreaks in city shelters, advocates say.
Although adoption was initially rapid when homeless people began receiving COVID-19 vaccines in early March, the pace of vaccinations has since slowed, in part because outbreaks in shelters have delayed visits. mobile vaccination clinics, said Doug Johnson Hatlem, One Street. pastor at the shrine of Christian charity.
“It’s really hit and miss – but more missed than hit – whether they can vaccinate places in an epidemic, and so many places have been in an epidemic,” he said. “Many of these [mobile vaccination clinics] were put in place and canceled due to epidemics. “
Shelter epidemics have surged in the past two months. On Monday, the city reported 220 active COVID-19 cases in 14 localities. This represents 135 active cases at 10 sites at the end of February.
A total of 10 people who have remained in the shelter system have died from COVID-19 issues since the start of the pandemic. With more than 5,800 people using Toronto’s shelter system daily, that puts the death rate above about one COVID-19 death per 1,000 people in the city’s general population, advocates say.
The majority of outbreaks occur in facilities that still function as collective living spaces, where people often sleep in warehouse-like spaces, said Diana Chan McNally, training and engagement coordinator at the Toronto Drop. -In Network. Even in places where physical distance is possible and where Plexiglass walls have been installed, measures are insufficient to prevent the airborne spread of the coronavirus, she said.
In addition, city data does not reflect the full extent of the outbreaks. she hears about outreach workers in Toronto.
“Some epidemics are not included in their data until long after they start,” she said. “We don’t even really have a clear picture of what’s going on – which for those of us on the pitch it’s really hard to understand the risk and then try to mitigate it.
In an emailed statement, Dr. Vinita Dubey, Toronto’s deputy medical officer of health, said as of April 30, more than 1,900 vaccinations had been given to homeless people. This represents approximately 33% of the shelter population.
The city said in a separate email last week that Toronto Public Health’s goal is to offer a first vaccine to at least 65 percent of all people experiencing homelessness and to frontline workers who support them by May 31. opened more than 25 new shelters and hotels and introduced a number of measures to protect people in the shelter system, including two meters between beds and the mandatory use of masks for staff.
Linda Jackson, senior clinical director of community and primary care at Unity Health Toronto, said reluctance to vaccinate shelter residents is likely no higher than that of the general population. But one of the biggest hurdles is that residents aren’t always available, she said, so her hospital network plans to send out smaller teams for repeat visits.
People who have tested positive for the virus or are symptomatic “are not suitable for vaccines,” Ms. Jackson said.
She said she hopes the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccines will be prioritized for people living in shelters, as they may have a harder time accessing the second dose that other types of vaccines need.
Vaccinating the homeless population as quickly as possible must remain a priority, said Naheed Dosani, a Toronto palliative care physician and health justice activist.
“People experiencing homelessness already face such significant health gaps in our communities,” he said. “If this community does not have high vaccine use, this gap will only widen.”
Meanwhile, Michael Eschbach, 60, who has been in the Toronto shelter system for the past 10 years, said he was “delighted” to receive his first dose of the Moderna vaccine several weeks ago, when it was offered to the refuge of the hotel where he is staying. . Mr Eschbach was among several residents who tested positive and were asymptomatic in an outbreak at a shelter a year ago.
Mr Eschbach said that while he’s mostly confined to his hotel room these days, he knows others who tend to be more mobile.
“They roam all over town all day,” he said, noting that if they don’t get their vaccines, they risk spreading the virus.
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