Thursday, September 23

Healthcare Team Brings Vaccines – and Hope – to Toronto’s Most Vulnerable Covid | Canada


ORn the morning of late April, with the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping through Canada’s largest city, nurse Rubén Rodríguez has an ambitious goal: to vaccinate nearly 500 people in one of Toronto’s worst-affected neighborhoods.

However, instead of working from one of the city’s mass vaccination sites, Rodríguez and a small group of health workers are part of a mobile vaccination team that is deployed where they are most needed.

Dressed in wavy surgical gowns and armed with stacks of syringes, the team walks the hallways of an apartment complex in the Jane and Finch neighborhood, one of the city’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods, but also one of the poorest. .

Data Since the end of March it was found that only 5.5% of Jane and Finch residents had been vaccinated, the lowest level in Toronto, while almost a quarter of the wealthiest enclaves in the city had received their doses.

Sitting outside their units, residents watch with nervous excitement as the team approaches.

“When you see that relief and the sense of hope that vaccines provide, it prompts you to move on and do more,” said Rodríguez, who has spent the past month delivering thousands of doses to the city’s most-at-risk residents.

In recent months, as Covid-19 variants overwhelm Toronto hospitals, areas like Jane and Finch have become the latest battleground in the fight against the virus. The Ontario province model predicts that the pandemic will worsen in the coming weeks as it will affect younger workers, many of whom are in precarious employment and living in crowded conditions or in intergenerational households.

Officials acknowledged that Toronto cannot vaccinate out of the third wave, but Rodriguez and the Humber River hospital team are nonetheless working to reach as many people as possible. “Every vaccine we deliver protects against a bad result,” he said. “When you get the vaccine, you can protect your loved ones.”

In previous weeks, with the help of Black Creek Community Health Center, the team has been deployed in churches, mosques and community centers.

People wait while Humber River hospital health workers administer Moderna vaccines at the Toronto Islamic Center and Region congregation.
People wait while Humber River hospital health workers administer Moderna vaccines at the Toronto Islamic Center and Region congregation. Photograph: Cole Burston / The Guardian

In addition to supply shortages and concerns about equitable distribution, communities facing outbreaks often face numerous barriers to accessing the vaccine.

Without computer skills and English language skills, booking appointments for vaccines can be difficult, Humber River team members say.

Because the coronavirus hospitalization and death rate is eight times higher in Jane and Finch than in wealthy neighborhoods, community leaders felt the area was a perfect candidate for the mobile delivery team.

The morning begins with the arrival of the frozen Moderna vaccine vials in a cooler, the temperature of which is carefully controlled.

“It’s like carrying liquid gold,” said nurse Lisa Bitonti-Bengert, who carried it on her lap in a van from the hospital.

Rubén Rodríguez and his team prepare to administer doses of the Moderna vaccine to the residents of the San Romanoway towers.
Rubén Rodríguez and his team prepare to administer doses of the Moderna vaccine to the residents of the San Romanoway towers. Photograph: Cole Burston / The Guardian

After thawing the small glass bottles, the team fills the syringes, carefully extracting each drop, before meeting to plan the day’s launch.

They are divided into teams and once inside the apartment buildings, they begin to use the strategy of “airplane mode”: pushing a small cart through the corridors, knocking on doors and vaccinating the residents. The strategy comes from months of work to vaccinate residents in long-term care homes, the group most affected by the first and second waves of the pandemic, says Rodríguez, who found that patients appreciated the agility of the group.

“Getting it from our house is very easy. There are no long lineups. We are very grateful to the community and the doctors, ”said Gowsi Prem as she sat next to her husband, moments after receiving his blows. “Now I feel safe from Covid. he [my body] it can fight the virus. “

Before a team is deployed, local residents who volunteer as “community ambassadors” survey the building and meet with tenants to address any concerns and answer questions.

“It’s amazing to see the work that everyone is doing to help us get vaccinated,” said Sheila Murphy, an ambassador who helped put up flyers before the event and was overwhelmed by interest from tenants. Another ambassador, Adina James, calls the job “an honor and a privilege.”

As the Humber River team moves from floor to floor of the imposing San Romanoway apartment complex, resident Janelle Brady says it’s about time essential workers and those living in congregational settings can get the vaccine – an impossible feat. without community leadership.

“It’s really a great show of when the community comes together to get things done. And it doesn’t surprise me because I grew up and lived in this area. And I’ve seen it over and over again, where community workers and frontline workers come together to support local people like me, ”Brady said as he waited for his vaccine. “I am very proud of the work they have done, but it does not surprise me. It’s the way we do things here. “

Nurse Priscilla Policar fills out paperwork with community members inside a gym in St Fidelis Parish.
Nurse Priscilla Policar fills out paperwork with community members inside a gym in St Fidelis Parish. Photograph: Cole Burston / The Guardian

Many in line have experienced the virus disrupting the lives of family and friends. Rashid Katsina said a friend recently contracted Covid and was so fatigued that he “couldn’t even take a shower for almost a week.”

The moment Katsina learned of the opportunity for a vaccine, she rushed to go. “I am delighted to achieve it. I am very excited. I can’t even explain how happy I am. “

For others, the day represented the possibility of the city moving into a new stage of the pandemic.

“At last it is an opportunity to return to feel normal, that we are moving forward.” said Lesley, a resident who had volunteered to help with the pop-up clinic and to get vaccinated. “For me, actually, it’s just a little bit of hope that we all need right now.”


www.theguardian.com

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