Cars filled the eight lanes of improvised line-ups to receive COVID-19 booster shots on the morning and afternoon of Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 at the St. Lawrence College parking lot.
Key organizer Dr. Elaine Ma was delighted to see the high turnout. “We are in a place where we all need to work together as a community to fight COVID, and I’m really thrilled to see both the number of people coming out to get vaccinated, but also a huge turnout of volunteers to make this happen today.”
Dr. Ma noted that about a hundred volunteers were onsite to help facilitate the event, and that they were bringing energy and positivity as they spent their Saturday in the chilly parking lot. “The attitude and the morale of the people here are very positive. People are just happy to be able to do something. Because we all know what the news is, we know what the numbers say, we know what the dashboard says. We want to actually do something, and that’s why we had innumerable people offer to help out.”
The format of the clinic was tweaked from previous drive-through vaccination events, in order to improve efficiency and flow. “What we have is people coming up and they’re getting their vaccine first,” Dr. Ma explained, “and then in the time that it’s taking us to enter them into the (online) provincial system — which is always the bottleneck — that’s the waiting period after their vaccine, we’re getting them entered, and then they’re taking off and leaving, and then they’ll get their receipt by email.”
Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health for the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health Region, addressed the need for efficient access to vaccines. “We have already administered, to date, around 30,000 third doses, booster doses. Mostly, these would be administered among the most vulnerable individuals: residents of long term care, 50-plus, people who are suffering from other medical conditions that make them eligible for the booster dose earlier.”
“And now it’s open to everyone, 18 years of age and over so this is going to be large numbers,” Dr. Oglaza continued. “The important thing right now is to get these boosters to as many people as we can as early as possible.”
Dr. Ma agreed. “We know that the evidence supports getting a booster to try and prevent the new variant. We do know that a booster is very important as far as preventing both the spread, and the actual disease affecting people and the seriousness of the disease.”
Dr. Oglaza added that time is of the essence. “I’ve seen that certainly with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, that this is really racing against time. We know that if someone gets a third dose, their protection goes up. And the three doses are about 70-75% effective against the Omicron variant.”
“The protection offered by the vaccine needs to be supplemented with other cautious behaviours to curb the spread of the Omicron variant,” Dr. Oglaza urged. “Full protection is deemed to be achieved about two weeks from that immunization so we have to get immunized now, as early as possible. But there’s other things that people could do in the interim, to increase their chances and slow down the spread of Omicron, and that really has to do with with limiting social interactions.”
“Certainly this is how we’ve seen the spread occurring in the past weeks, in the social gatherings where people are gathering indoors, without masks, in a social context. And that’s where we’ve seen our outbreaks, that’s where we see the spread.”
Dr. Ma noted that current availability for this drive-through clinic is 5000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. “We do always get some extra, so watch our Twitter account later on today. If we do have some extras, we’ll put it out there to make sure we use up every last dose that we have. Nothing’s going to waste if possible.”
In addition to today’s drive-through clinic, Dr. Ma confirmed that similar events are planned for Monday, Dec. 20, Wednesday, Dec. 22, and Sunday, Dec. 26. “As long as the demand is here,” said Dr. Ma, “we’ll keep doing these in partnership with Public Health.”
“Every person who gets the vaccine today is in much better position and much better prepared for that upcoming and evolving wave of Omicron,” said Dr. Oglaza.