#OneEastToronto — Meet Ashika Nalamuthu, Anisah Than, Jakeecia Henningham and Denisia Paterson

#OneEastToronto shares the faces of East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP), a group of more than 50 community, primary care, home care, hospital and social services organizations in East Toronto working together to improve the way local residents access and receive care. Meet Ashika Nalamuthu, Anisah Than, Jakeecia Henningham and Denisia Paterson, registered practical nurses (RPN) on our mobile vaccination team.

Ashika Nalamuthu, RPN

“I transitioned from being a personal support worker to a nurse about five years ago. When vaccine supply started to become available in Ontario, I wanted to make a difference and decided to apply for a role to work at an immunization clinic at Michael Garron Hospital. I started working there in January vaccinating specific eligible populations. When more and more people started becoming eligible for the vaccine and supply was available, myself and other members of this team started doing more mobile work.

In three months, we’ve visited dozens of locations in the community to deliver COVID-19 vaccines, including retirement homes, shelters, high-rise apartment buildings, community centres and religious sites. The people in these locations and neighbourhoods are so happy that we’re able to go to them. Some may face language barriers or may not be sure how to book a vaccine appointment. So it’s comforting and convenient for them to know they don’t have to walk far from home or navigate a complicated system to get the vaccine.

The teamwork between the clerks, nurses and doctors at the mobile and pop-up clinics we organize has been amazing. We work so well together and are able to maintain such great patient flow at the clinics. It makes my day when we’re able to help so many people in such a short amount of time. They’re so thankful. I hope we can keep the momentum going and vaccinate more and more people.”

Anisah Than, RPN

“I live in the neighbourhood and my mom worked at Michael Garron Hospital for 34 years before retiring last year. The hospital feels really close to home so I’ve always wanted to work there. I saw the opportunity to be part of the mobile vaccination team as a way to help out as much as I can right now. The work is so rewarding, especially when we’re able to go door-to-door in places like community housing and high-rise apartment buildings in hotspot communities. The residents include people who are elderly or face language and technological barriers, and they’re so grateful they can receive the vaccine in this way without leaving their homes.

I’ve lost two family members to COVID-19, so it’s especially meaningful that I’m able to help with vaccine administration in the community. To anyone who is reluctant to get the vaccine, I would encourage them to deeply consider their family, friends and anyone else in their life they care about. It’s important to protect the people you love right now. And getting the COVID-19 vaccine is an easy way to do that. I can honestly say I love what I do and I’m more than happy to be working on the mobile vaccination team, which has become family to me.”

Jakeecia Henningham, RPN

“I’ve worked in a variety of areas during the COVID-19 pandemic, from supporting long-term care homes to providing direct bedside care. Now, I have the opportunity to be part of the solution — something that will hopefully help us get out of this pandemic — by administering COVID-19 vaccines. We began our mobile work in long-term care and retirement homes earlier this year and it was an emotional experience. For many people, it was one big step toward some semblance of normalcy.

One of my favourite parts of my job is the human connection. I love helping people, and it’s incredible that we have the opportunity to impact a person’s life while doing our part to help. I also love connecting with my team and working together to accomplish a seemingly impossible task. It feels good to be able to help people feel safe again. The emotion that comes from that is amazing.

As someone who was reluctant to receive the vaccine at first, I would advise people to not just think about themselves and their families, but other vulnerable people, when it comes to getting the COVID-19 vaccine. During my work, I see my colleagues, who are working day in and out, and people from all walks of life. I got my vaccine because I want to do my part to make sure these people stay safe and out of the hospital. At the end of the day, it’s not just about you. It’s about you, your community and the wider world.”

Denisia Paterson, RPN

“I come from a family of nurses, so the profession is definitely in my blood. As part of the mobile vaccination team, I’ve had the chance to visit more than 20 long-term care and retirement homes in the area to administer COVID-19 vaccines earlier this year. That was an amazing experience because we were going into communities that needed the vaccine the most. And we know the vaccine works because, since then, we’ve seen no significant outbreaks in these settings.

We’ve now evolved to administering vaccines at pop-up clinics in communities that have been hard hit by COVID-19. These clinics have really pushed us to innovate and think on our feet because what works for one community may not work for another. We’ve had to fine-tune our process and logistics for each clinic so it works for each area’s specific population and needs. Hearing how thankful people who come to the clinic are makes it all worth it. Many of them come with stories: some have family members who are sick and they haven’t been able to visit; others are essential workers who live with many people under one roof and don’t want to bring the virus home to their families. They’re so appreciative for the opportunity to receive the vaccine.

As a nurse, we also answer people’s questions and concerns about the vaccine at these clinics. We help dispel myths or misinformation they may have heard, and reassure them that the vaccine is safe and effective. I find it makes a big difference when people are able to speak to a doctor, nurse or other medical professional. Many people become more open to the idea of getting the vaccine and they understand better the risks and benefits. So it’s all about connecting them with the right people.”