Ottawa continues to push for first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to residents


OTTAWA – As the COVID-19 booster shots roll out, there are still a lot of people without even a first dose.

According to the Ottawa neighborhood study, the Ledbury-Heron Gate-Ridgemont neighborhood has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in Ottawa.

On Sunday, a pop-up clinic was set up at Sandalwood Park, the South East Ottawa Community Health Center’s latest move to get more hits through accessibility and breaking down barriers around vaccines.

“Access has been a huge problem, so this clinic we’re bringing it to them,” said COVID-19 coordinator Soraya Allibhai.

During the four hour session, two people were vaccinated. Not the number they expected, but for the clinic, it makes a difference.

“It varies,” said Yasmin Mohamed, RN at the South East Ottawa Community Health Center.

“Maybe 16, 20 people a day and that doesn’t sound like a lot, but due to the low rates in the community it’s a big thing for us.”

“We are not here to force vaccines, but we are here to have conversations with our community,” added Allibhai, who notes that many in the neighborhood are frontline workers who cannot afford time off or have the possibility of a sick day.

“We are trying to help them get tested, get them vaccinated and answer any questions about their reluctance,” she said.

But there is a renewed urgency to roll up our sleeves after an increase in cases across the province, with health officials reporting a total of more than 500 cases in a single day for a third day in a row.

According to Ottawa epidemiologist Dr. Raywat Deonandan, there are various reasons for vaccine resistance.

“It’s the anti-vaccine, the apathetic, the people who need better access and the vaccine hesitant who just need better information,” he said. “Just handing over a brochure may not be enough, you need to have access to a personality who can answer their questions and maybe guess their question before they even ask it.”

One solution is to speak in the same language, according to Mohamed, who has been administering gunfire in southeast Ottawa since September. The registered nurse says speaking Somali has helped build confidence.

“When you ask someone questions, you feel a connection with them,” said Yasmin Mohamed. “I think having someone to talk to in our community helps.”

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