People wait in line for their AstraZeneca vaccination Tuesday at the Cloverdale Recreation Centre. The drop-in clinic ran from 12:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. for people 30 years of age and older. According to a news release, the clinic was to support people who live in the ten high transmission neighbourhoods in the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks photo)

People wait in line for their AstraZeneca vaccination Tuesday at the Cloverdale Recreation Centre. The drop-in clinic ran from 12:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. for people 30 years of age and older. According to a news release, the clinic was to support people who live in the ten high transmission neighbourhoods in the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Lack of clear vaccine info from B.C. officials leading to rumours, distrust: advocates

People are turning to WhatsApp and other platforms to find vaccine vacancies

In past years, Kulpreet Singh’s neighbourhood group chats online have been filled with political discussion and questions about lost cats.

These days, however, phone app WhatsApp – a messaging platform – are full of inquiries the Lower Mainland resident never thought he would see.

“In my neighbourhood group, someone posted this morning, asking, does anyone know if there are any vaccination pop ups today?” Singh, the founder of the South Asian Mental Health Alliance, told Black Press Media by phone Thursday (April 29), just hours after Fraser Health suspended its much-maligned system of pop-up clinics.

“I would never imagine someone would be asking where to get vaccinated in my local neighbourhood group,” he said, adding that ideally, these details would be listed on the health authority website, with dates and the requirements, as well as a registration process and updates on daily spaces.

SFU professor Valorie Crooks agrees. The creator of the COVID-19 Risks in British Columbia’s Neighbourhoods project said that the “whisper network,” or informal spaces being used to share information, wasn’t working.

While vaccines were brought to high-risk neighbourhoods, Crooks said, what remained lacking was transparency.

The whole idea of a pop-up clinic may be flawed from the get-go. Pop-up shops, she noted, do rely on the idea of surprise and scarcity, but that might not be the route British Columbians want health officials to go.

Fraser Health ran 10 pop-up vaccine clinics, beginning April 24. At least four – Cloverdale, Surrey North, South Langley Township and Port Coquitlam – were announced only after they had already began, with many people standing in line for hours.

Fraser Health said 6,000 people were vaccinated, but apologized for their lack of communication about the clinics.

“People want to get a better understanding of how do we actually choose these sites? And also, how are we informing people about the availability of this,” Crooks said.

However, she sympathized with an attempt by Fraser Health to do what many had been asking; go into high-risk neighbourhoods directly.

“I think that having are doubling down on the idea of bringing vaccines into communities where the rates are high, or risks are high, is a positive thing,” Crooks said. “This is something that many public health experts across Canada and internationally have said is an effective strategy.”

But even as Fraser Health tried to push down some barriers to vaccination, Crooks said they created others by not spreading the word in a way that allowed all people, including vulnerable frontline workers, to access immunizations.

Singh said that the pop-ups likely damaged confidence in the vaccine rollout altogether.

“What I heard on site was an individual in my network, who went on-site at around 7:40 a.m. in the morning, he waited six hours to get his vaccination,” Singh said, noting that this person, like many others, received conflicting information about the number of doses available and who would get one.

Singh is glad that Fraser Health suspended their pop-up clinics to look for more equitable solutions. While both the health ministry and Fraser Health have said they’ve been in contact with the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) communities in hot spot zones, Singh said that bureaucracy has often gotten in the way of that.

READ MORE: Fraser Health apologizes for confusion, says no more COVID vaccine pop-up clinics planned

While there is little to no AstraZeneca in B.C. right now, health officials have said they will rethink the program when supply returns. Singh hopes that will involve using mobile clinics, similar to a program in Surrey, or family doctors to get the word out to their patients.

But Singh cautioned against making volunteers shoulder the burden of vaccine education and access like Toronto has done with the Vaccine Hunters Twitter account.

“Those groups, vaccine hunters, they’re putting labor to help and support people’s health and well being, whereas large systems already exist of people who are being paid to do these jobs.”

The rumours and lack of concrete information, Singh said, has only amplified the feelings of trauma and exhaustion already felt by many in the South Asian community.

“I’m concerned right now about frontline and essential workers, and especially new immigrants and international students who are going through different waves of trauma because of their family situation and home situation in India, with the second wave of COVID, and the farmer protests,” he said.

“Then on top of that working frontline, during the pandemic here in Canada, and then them not even able to get a vaccine in an equitable way is not really fair. The least we could do to respect them and the sacrifices that they’re making working on the front line is to make sure that they get the vaccine.”

B.C. is asking all adults to register for vaccines at https://www.getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca, even if they already received their first dose prior to registering. People in their 50s are being contacted to book immunization appointments in the coming days, while people ages 30 or 40 and up can get vaccinated at pharmacies.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusFraser Healthvaccines

Just Posted

Michelle Jacobs receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 28, 2021. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
126 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

There are 22 individuals hospitalized due to the virus, and 13 in intensive care

Taco, a beloved family cat had to be euthanized last week after ingesting poison. At least four cats ingested poison last week, prompting a warning from the local SPCA. (Submitted)
Taco, a beloved Penticton cat had to be euthanized after ingesting poison

Local SPCA puts out warning after four cats poisoned near downtown Penticton

RCMP vest
Penticton beach brawl results in one arrest but no charges

People took to social media after a fight broke out at the fire pits at Okanagan Lake Saturday

Levi Carter with the Osoyoos Coyotes. (File photo)
From the KIJHL to BCHL, Levi Carter follows in dad’s foot-steps with Penticton Vees

Carter joined the Vees as an affiliate player after finishing his Junior ‘B’ season in Osoyoos

Road work is underway in Penticton so traffic controllers are asking drivers to be aware. (Submitted)
Message to Penticton drivers: Slow down and pay attention in Cone Zones

Over the last 10 years in B.C., 12 roadside workers died and 207 were injured

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Barriere RCMP nabbed two suspects who were allegedly breaking into cabins in McLure. (File photo)
Thieves nabbed by Barriere Mounties during McLure break-ins

Police Service Dog Kody instrumental in making the arrest

(File photo)
Repeated cougar sighting on Okanagan Rail Trail

Plenty of bear sightings around the valley too

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

A single motorcycle parked outside of the Kelowna Hells Angels clubhouse at 837 Ellis Street on July 9, 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna Hells Angels prospect sentenced to 9 months in jail for aggravated assault

Colin Michael Bayley pleaded guilty to the downtown Kelowna assault earlier this month

Salmon Arm RCMP seize a handgun, drugs and cash at a Silver Creek property on Friday, May 14, 2021. (File photo)
Police seize handgun, drugs and cash at a Shuswap property

Salmon Arm RCMP said warrant for Silver Creek revealed cannabis, possible cocaine, magic mushrooms

Vernon Search and Rescue, along with Shuswap members, rescued three kayakers near Lumby Sunday, May 16, 2021. (VSAR Instagram)
3 kayakers rescued in North Okanagan

Shuswap, Vernon search and rescue teams make swift-water rescue Sunday

Most Read