Navigating the seemingly endless narrative around COVID-19 vaccines isn’t an easy task – now, imagine doing that as a new Canadian, and English isn’t your first language.
That is one of the barriers that some of Saskatoon’s mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics aim to address. One such clinic for newcomers was held at Saskatoon Global Gathering Place on May 16, in partnership with the Refugee Engagement and Community Health Clinic (REACH).
“Even without being a newcomer, there is a lot of information out there and it’s ever-changing,” said Dr. Satchan Takaya, Pandemic Area Chief of Staff for Saskatoon. “Hesitancy within the newcomer community is not necessarily about people not wanting the vaccine but more about access to vaccine. We have heard from some people that they just didn’t know how to get the vaccine and how to navigate the system.”
About 220 individuals were immunized at the clinic on Sunday. This was the second clinic held at Global Gathering Place and one of many mobile clinics in Saskatoon targeted toward people who face challenges to access the vaccine. Bringing the opportunity to be immunized closer to them, in a place that they are familiar with, is only one piece of the puzzle.
“There is definitely a language barrier and sometimes a mistrust of the Western medical system,” Takaya said. “It has taken a lot of phone calls and a lot of interpretation from our partners to get people to come.”
Mariselina Chongera (top left) attended the clinic with her son Bley Ndairagije (front), and are pictured with Dr. Karen Leis (middle) and Dr. Mahli Brindamour.
Attendees of the clinic on Sunday also got an extra surprise, thanks to the generosity of the This is Our Shot campaign.
“One of our Patient Family Partners, Dianne Martin, sent me information about the campaign,” said Takaya. “I randomly messaged Hayley Wickenheiser, the campaign’s co-founder – who I don’t know! – and she connected us with a donation of 100 shirts that we handed out to people attending Sunday’s clinic.”
Through that campaign, the immunization team was also able to get vaccine FAQ documents in a number of languages, which were provided to the clinic attendees.
“The people that come to the clinic for vaccine obviously aren’t overly hesitant, but I’m hoping that they take those messages back to their families,” said Takaya. “That’s the hope, that they can spread the message that vaccines are safe, along with the positive vibes around getting the COVID shot, back to their community members.”
Back Row: Dr. Dave Campbell, Dr. Mahli Brindamour, Dr. Satchan Takaya, Lori Steward (Global Gathering Place), Ahmed Samir (Global Gathering Place), Dr. Jacelyn Hanson, and (front row:) Sol Barrones (Open Door), Nazik Abdalla (Open Door), and Rebecca Nixon (Global Gathering Place) brought their organizations together to make the clinic possible.