Thanks to an initiative by two local doctors, Kerry Beal and Joe Oliver, people in Hamilton now have the opportunity to set up an outdoor COVID-19 vaccination clinic for their children.
Oliver, who announced the outdoor clinics on Twitter, said while they’re aimed at children under five, adults are also welcome to get their booster shots.
“While kids can mask, many of them have a hard time, and there are a lot of parents out there who are quite hesitant, recognizing that indoor clinics pose a COVID risk to their child,” Oliver told CBC Hamilton .
“They want to get their child a vaccine, not COVID.”
To “protect the kids,” Oliver said they would not publicize where the outdoor clinics are taking place. Parents can make appointments Send him a direct message on Twitter. (You need a Twitter account to do this.)
Hamilton’s parent Stacy Hushion says she saw a tweet from Oliver on Sunday and booked an appointment for her daughter Lillian, who is just a week away from her second birthday, and her four-year-old sister Vera.
“I… gave him a DM and voila. It’s such a great relief for us. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time [two] years for this moment,” she said.
Hushion says Lillian and Vera were both vaccinated on Monday.
Hamilton began accepting appointments for COVID-19 vaccines for children between the ages of six months and five years on July 28.
The city’s health department says the long-awaited vaccine, which comes more than a year and a half after the first adult vaccines, reduces the risk of catching COVID-19, as well as rare complications from an infection such as a multisystem inflammatory condition.
“Having more children vaccinated reduces the risk of outbreaks and therefore prevents disruption to school and activities,” reads the FAQ published on the city’s website.
Great demand for outdoor clinics
Oliver says more parents are asking about vaccinations for their children than appointments are available.
“It keeps growing and growing, more and more,” Oliver said of the interest.
“We had parents from all over. We had parents from London, Ontario, Guelph, Kitchener, Toronto, Scarborough, and we had parents – some jokingly [I believe] – from Alberta.”
Meanwhile, Oliver says there’s also a fervor as schools are set to reopen soon.
“We still have a long way to go to make the indoor environment of schools safer by increasing ventilation capacity,” he said.
“There is reasonably a push from parents who want to get their children vaccinated now before the school season starts.”
In addition to offering vaccinations at a central location, both doctors also went to people’s homes to vaccinate them.
“We actually did a bit of that yesterday, outside their houses. Like older autistic children, we often went to their homes to get vaccinated,” Beal said in an interview Monday.
“[We also facilitate] Children who, for one reason or another, just can’t get out. Most of the time it’s the kids who have social phobia and stuff like that.”
Beal says they have received 90 doses from Hamilton Public Health Services (HPHS) and they have more doses available.
“We can go back and get more if we need to,” Beal said.
“We originally bought three bottles at 10 doses per bottle and the same day we went back and got another six bottles realizing how much interest there was out there.”
Beal says while they initially thought they would only offer the clinic on Saturdays, they plan to offer them four mornings a week.
The approach is not entirely new – the two doctors were also known last year for taking to the streets to vaccinate underserved communities.
27,000 eligible children in Hamilton
According to Beal, there are 27,000 children in Hamilton who are eligible for vaccination.
She suspects, however, that HPHS wasn’t expecting a big take, as their initial order was for just 2,700 cans.
“I think they’re a bit overwhelmed by the number of people who are interested in getting their young children vaccinated,” Beal said.
“They see the same interest as we do. We keep hearing from people saying they’re trying to make an appointment but everyone’s gone.”
Beal pointed out that not all parents feel the need to get their kids vaccinated outdoors, but said there are these “hesitating ones who have done such a good job of protecting their kids over the last two years and they don’t screw things up want now by going into a building.”
Such was the case with Hushion and her daughters. “I know we seem to be living in a world where we’re having to learn to live with COVID, but I’m not there yet,” she told CBC Hamilton. “If I can avoid exposing them to infection, I will… And our world can open up a little more now that they have their first vaccination.”
Ottawa doctor is leading the way
Oliver says his colleague Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth is a leader with outdoor clinics in Ottawa and recognizes the need and desire of caregivers for an outdoor vaccination option.
“She orchestrated hundreds of under-5s getting vaccinated in a friendly, outdoor setting with live music, rocking chairs and more,” he said.
“Hopefully we can make more of that available to caregivers.”