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First day of COVID-19 shots in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

The Carnegie Community Centre. (Courtesy Vancouver Public Library)

People in the Downtown Eastside are starting to receive their COVID-19 vaccines at the Carnegie Community Centre

Karen Ward will be getting her shot, describing it as a sense of relief

People experiencing homelessness, or who are living in shelters, SROs, and supportive housing are eligible

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Immunizations against COVID-19 are starting Friday for vulnerable people living in the Downtown Eastside, providing a sense of hope.

Karen Ward lives in supportive housing in the neighbourhood and is among those who qualify for the protective shot.

“I was relieved, and I was happy, and I was hopeful that this will help the health authority figure out how to serve everybody else as best as they can too because they are people who live in precarious housing all over the place,” she tells NEWS 1130. “It’s something real that might be a sign of better the things to come. It’s not just words, it’s a real thing and we can all access it.”

People experiencing homelessness or who are living in shelters, single-room occupancies (SRO), and supportive housing are eligible to be immunized at the Carnegie Community Centre.

Ward says the pandemic has made challenging circumstances in the neighbourhood worse, and there isn’t the same sense of community.

“It’s making what was bad, worse,” she says. “People just feel like they can’t take any more, for one thing, and they feel like anything they try to do doesn’t matter very much.

“It’s been very difficult here for the duration [of the pandemic], but we’ll see. I hope people might be able to see this as a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel.”

RELATED: B.C. to use age as determining factor for remaining vaccine rollout

The province’s immunization plan aims at protecting the most at-risk populations before moving into the general population, starting in spring. However, setbacks from Pfizer have forced the province to stretch the time period between the first and second shots to a maximum of 42 days temporarily, while vaccine supply is low.

Data gathered from tracking exposures and doing antibody testing at shelters suggested an increase in the percentage of people on the DTES who have been exposed to COVID-19.

Advocates warned how dangerous a potential COVID-19 outbreak could be in the Downtown Eastside at the beginning of the second wave in B.C.

The vaccine clinic will be opened from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

-with files from Bailey Nicholson, Tarnjit Parmar, and Lisa Steacy