No dose wasted: The inventive ways our partners are helping to get COVID-19 vaccines into arms in East Toronto

Since COVID-19 vaccines have become available in Ontario, East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP) has collaborated to ensure vaccines reach as many eligible arms as possible.

This has involved deploying a mobile vaccination team to high-risk settings like long-term care homes, operating pop-up vaccine clinics in priority neighbourhoods and, most recently, launching COVID-19 Outreach Centres and a mobile vaccination bus, among other strategies.

It’s also involved redistributing Michael Garron Hospital’s (MGH) vaccine allocation to community partners, including primary care providers, community health centres and others, whenever possible to help ensure vaccines are easily accessible.

On many occasions, our partners have also flexed their creative muscles to help ensure not a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine goes to waste. From hand-delivering vaccines to the doorsteps of local residents to offering vaccines to workers on the job, here a few of the innovative ways our partners have administered COVID-19 vaccines in East Toronto.

Knocking on residents’ doors

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Dr. Michael Chu and nurse practitioner Sylwia Nunes from Scarborough Academic Family Health Team.

On August 6, MGH and Scarborough Academic Family Health Team (SAFHT) partnered to bring COVID-19 vaccines to the doorsteps of clients and their family and friends in the Scarborough area.

The campaign was carried out by SAFHT’s Sylwia Nunes, nurse practitioner, and Dr. Michael Chu, family physician. They reached out to community doctors in the area who were able to provide lists of patients who would like a Moderna vaccine delivered to their door that week.

Sylwia and Dr. Chu hand-delivered these doses to the identified individuals, successfully administering a number of Moderna vials that were at risk of expiring.

Throughout the vaccine rollout, MGH has worked with its primary care partners to conduct primary care clinics in East Toronto where local patients may be vaccinated. This was another example of the community hospital, family doctors and nurse practitioners collaborating to get vaccines into arms.

‘Community medicine in action’

Dr. Susan Hoffmann from East End Community Health Centre.

Dr. Susan Hoffmann from East End Community Health Centre.

When the team at East End Community Health Centre learned they had three leftover doses at the end of a vaccine clinic on July 23, two family physicians took every measure to ensure these vaccines did not go to waste.

With 10 minutes before the doses were set to expire, Drs. Susan Hoffmann and Miriam Wiebe went door-to-door to local businesses in the area in search of people who wanted to be vaccinated.

They were especially interested in finding essential workers who frequently interact with the public and are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, so they walked to the local LCBO and restaurants. They ended up vaccinating one restaurant worker, one retail worker and a patron.

“There was one customer at a local restaurant who had been vaccine hesitant. But when she heard me offering the vaccine to staff, she decided now was the time,” recounts Dr. Hoffmann. “As I was leaving the restaurant, she ran after me to get it.”

“Not only did we manage to administer all our vaccines, but we made three people very happy,” Dr. Hoffmann adds. “This is community medicine in action!”

These efforts continue in the East with ETHP’s mobile vaccination street team, which roam busy streets to offer vaccines to local workers, patrons and pedestrians, and workplace vaccinations, which give employers the opportunity to have their staff vaccinated at work.

Delivering vaccines close to home

Community ambassadors and nurses during a door-to-door vaccination drive in Flemingdon Park.

Community ambassadors and nurses during a door-to-door vaccination drive in Flemingdon Park.

As part of a pilot project in July, local community ambassadors and registered nurses brought COVID-19 vaccines to residents of high-rise apartment buildings in Flemingdon Park.

Community ambassadors from Flemingdon Health Centre (FHC), TNO – The Neighbourhood Organization (TNO) and Afghan Women’s Organization (AWO) acted as familiar faces, allowing the team to better connect with local residents.

Nurses from MGH carried the vaccines in cooler-equipped backpacks, provided medical expertise and delivered the doses.

Together, the group went door-to-door to answer questions about the vaccine and administer them to eligible individuals who expressed interest.

On another occasion, these partners organized a pop-up vaccine clinic in the lobby of a Flemingdon Park building. Community ambassador Abdul Rashid Athar made an announcement on the building’s PA system to inform the building’s residents of the clinic, encouraging them to come downstairs to be vaccinated.

Minutes later, the lobby was filled with people looking for their first and second dose.

“Community ambassadors’ work is inherently critical to the COVID recovery and renewal process,” says Neil Stephens, manager of population health and wellness at FHC. “There is no undermining the tremendous efforts they have been putting in to ensure equity and access for all.”

ETHP is operating pop-up vaccine clinics throughout East Toronto that are open to everyone born in 2009 or earlier who lives, works or attends school in any “M” postal code. First and second doses are available. Appointments may be booked in advance at some clinics. To learn more, visit