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Removing barriers to vaccines for Waterloo Region’s refugees2 min read

Feb 1, 2022 2 min

Removing barriers to vaccines for Waterloo Region’s refugees2 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Some of the newcomers to our community are government-assisted refugees who are supported by Reception House Waterloo Region to settle into their new country.

In addition to arranging places for newcomers to stay and making sure they have adequate necessities, caseworker Craig Baila wanted to be sure that Waterloo Region’s newest residents had access to the COVID-19 vaccine. That is why Craig contacted the Region of Waterloo to see if it would be possible to bring COVID-19 vaccines to refugees, a large number who had just arrived from war-torn Afghanistan.

While new refugees to the area settled into two local hotels, plans got underway to bring the mobile vaccination bus to them. Support to make this happen came from many directions. Grand River Transit staff assessed the vaccination bus locations for safety and ease of access, in addition to providing the bus drivers. Cambridge Pinebush vaccination clinic staff, who are employees of Grand River Hospital, stepped up to administer vaccine. Region of Waterloo staff provided the technical skills to operate the provincial vaccination database system. Other Regional staff, still working from home during the pandemic, created the schedule and developed resources to promote the opportunity to get vaccinated.

The mobile vaccination bus made it very convenient for many newcomers who were eager to get the vaccine. No appointments were required. Reception House staff went floor by floor, room by room through the hotel to bring families one at a time to the mobile vaccination bus. With a doctor, pharmacist, a nurse who spoke Arabic and a telephone interpreter who spoke Dari on hand, anyone was able to ask questions.

“Clients and Reception House staff were grateful for the flexibility and ingenuity of the mobile clinic staff,” said Craig Baila. “The multi-disciplinary team addressed concerns of clients and put their heads together to tackle challenging questions. Working together, we were able to figure out how to validate overseas records and ensure that people were able to access their vaccine certificate.”

So far, the mobile vaccination bus has been at Reception House locations eight times to administer 176 doses to refugees who are generally receiving a first dose, or a second dose if they got the vaccine before coming to Canada.

Thanks to the partnership with Reception House, the Region of Waterloo has expanded its community outreach during COVID-19 to government-assisted refugees. The mobile vaccination bus is just one example of a clinic model that is being used during the vaccine rollout to provide equitable access to immunization.