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COVID vaccination plans for B.C.'s homeless guided by responses to other illnesses

Last Updated Mar 4, 2021 at 1:27 am PDT

FILE: Doctor Anil Mehta administers a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine to a homeless person at the Welcome Centre in Ilford, east London, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Public health is drawing on what’s worked with other illnesses to ensure B.C.’s most vulnerable population is vaccinated against COVID-19, and followed up on.

Nursing Professor Dr. Katrina Plamondon at UBC Okanagan says it can take more time and attention to meet people in transient situations. However, she says successfully tracking and treating people with ongoing illnesses like HIV or Hepatitis in the homeless community has worked before and can again.

“To have a good turn out … pair it with other services. Pair it with providing a meal or providing access to other health care,” Plamondon says.

Although she adds, she is concerned people won’t realize vaccinations need to be offered in an accessible way.

If people hoping to vaccinate the community don’t navigate the survival challenges the population faces, then wrong assumptions can be made.

“If we only make vaccines accessible to places where they don’t feel safe, or where they might be received with stigma and discrimination, they will be less likely to access services. So, we really need to create solutions and create pathways to access that meet people where they are at,” Plamondon explains.

While it can take more time and attention to be able to meet people in transient situations where they are, Plamondon says past experience shows it can and is done successfully by respecting and recognizing vulnerable people.

So far, 5,000 residents and 2,000 community workers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside have received vaccinations using this approach.