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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
5 more deaths, 131 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

Those 18-years and older in high-transmission neighbourhoods can register for the vaccine

Bentley Martin (left), Graelynn Roche, and Paisleigh Martin (right) sell iced tea on Sunday, May 9, 2021. (Lindsey Roche/Contributed)
Kelowna children raise money for hospital with iced tea stand

Three children in Glenmore set up an iced tea stand to raise money for Kelowna General Hospital

Kelowna resident Sally Wallick helped rescue a kayaker in distress a week and a half ago. (Sally Wallick/Contributed)
VIDEO: Kelowna woman rescues capsized kayaker in Okanagan Lake

Sally Wallick is asking people to be prepared for the cold water and unpredictable winds

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
UPDATE: Winfield road open following police, coroner investigation

Pelmewash Parkway closure near Highway 97 connection

Danny Fulton receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 27. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
All adults in Rutland, Summerland now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccine

Province expands age range to 18+ for vaccinations in ‘high transmission’ areas

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

The southern mountain caribou, an iconic species for the Splatsin First Nation, is threatened with extinction, much to the dismay of the First Nation. (Province of B.C. photo)
Okanagan First Nation band concerned over dwindling caribou herd

Southern mountain caribou at risk of extinction, much to dismay of Splatsin First Nation near Enderby

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
High-risk takedown on Highway 1 following Shuswap shooting

Upon further investigation, the vehicle and its occupants were not associated with the shooting

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Most Read