The welcome signs were out, the doses available — still, time stretched wide between groups of people walking into a pop-up vaccination clinic hosted by the Manitoba Islamic Association.

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The welcome signs were out, the doses available — still, time stretched wide between groups of people walking into a pop-up vaccination clinic hosted by the Manitoba Islamic Association.

Sabawoon Jamdar and two of his sons were among just over a dozen people to get a COVID-19 shot at the Edmonton Street clinic across from Central Park on Monday.

"I have to get my vaccine now," said Jamdar, who received his first dose. "There is (basically) no option."

Sabawoon Jamdar and his two oldest kids, Mohammed (15), About Baker (13) received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose at the Manitoba Islamic Association vaccine clinic at 406 Edmonton. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Sabawoon Jamdar and his two oldest kids, Mohammed (15), About Baker (13) received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose at the Manitoba Islamic Association vaccine clinic at 406 Edmonton. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Community-led pop-up clinics across Winnipeg have not seen enough traffic to use up their available doses. However, they're vital in reaching marginalized groups. Without them, many people wouldn't get vaccinated, organizers say.

Jamdar, 38, had held off; rules are constantly changing around which doses are approved to visit various countries. And then there's the bombardment of information about the virus, he said.

But he and his children want to travel, and he is also worried about the future.

"If you go to a job site, maybe they say it's mandatory," he said. "I don't want to lose my job... I have kids, I have to support my family."

He noted the vaccine is safe, which provided an incentive to get the shots.

The Manitoba Islamic Association had 50 doses available Monday. Raza Muhammad, the clinic co-ordinator, attributed the slow uptake to the clinic's new location and the vaccination rate. As of Wednesday, 81 per cent of Manitobans had at least one dose, and nearly 75 per cent had received both.

Community-driven pop-up clinics are necessary to meet people where they're at, Muhammad said.

Between Aug. 1 and 17, the province distributed nearly 13,000 doses to pop-up and community-hosted clinics. A provincial spokesperson was unable to provide the number of total doses circulated to such clinics since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Manitoba Islamic Association vaccine clinic provided easy access to COVID-19 vaccines within the community. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

The Manitoba Islamic Association vaccine clinic provided easy access to COVID-19 vaccines within the community. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

North End community family support group Fearless R2W saw at least 15 people in the first hour of its clinic Tuesday evening in St. John's Park.

"Even if we only had one person, it would've been a win for us," said executive director Mary Burton.

Two Winnipeg Regional Health Authority nurses administered vaccines in a tent. Outside, volunteers and folks who'd received their shots sat at a picnic table and in lawn chairs.

Burton greeted people by name and offered them water and healthy snacks.

"I know there's a lot of people, in the North End community specifically, that are very resistant to listening to government... intervention into their lives," she said.

She used social media to get the word out about the clinic, which she organized with the North End Community Renewal Corp.

"When groups like Fearless R2W and NECRC step up and say, 'Hey, look, we're vaccinated, come get your vaccination — it's safe, it's reliable, you're protecting yourself, you're protecting the community,' then it becomes real to them," she said.

Mary Burton (left), executive director of Fearless R2W, Lalonnie Shimonko and Jessie Leigh, executive director of the North End Community Renewal Corporation, and John Morrissette ran an evening pop-up clinic in St. John’s Park. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Mary Burton (left), executive director of Fearless R2W, Lalonnie Shimonko and Jessie Leigh, executive director of the North End Community Renewal Corporation, and John Morrissette ran an evening pop-up clinic in St. John’s Park. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

"They start to think, 'Well, maybe I should get it,' because people that they trust, organizations that they trust are saying it's OK."

Fearless R2W paid for supplies to host a clinic at the park last weekend. There were 50 doses available, and 12 people got vaccinated.

"It does not take much (time), if you're dealing with the right people, to pull it together," said John Morrissette, a volunteer with Fearless R2W.

The group made Tuesday's clinic happen in less than 24 hours.

"People need to remember that polio was eradicated by a vaccine that we still give to families today," Burton said. "All of those childhood vaccinations that we get as children protect us now. Having the COVID shot is just the same thing. It's a vaccination that's there to help us."

However, Burton said she isn't looking to change minds — the clinics are about accessibility.

"Some people... are against it, and there's nothing anyone can say or do to stop that," she said.

"People need to remember that polio was eradicated by a vaccine that we still give to families today. All of those childhood vaccinations that we get as children protect us now. Having the COVID shot is just the same thing. It's a vaccination that's there to help us." ‐ Mary Burton, Fearless R2W executive director

Raj Sandhu contacted the Women of Colour Community Leadership Initiative to organize a pop-up clinic in the Khalsa Diwan Society temple on McLeod Avenue.

"(I) thought that it would be a brilliant idea (for) people that don't speak English," the community member said. "Most of our parents come from India.... We just wanted to make sure that the message was very clear."

More than 50 people showed up during the day-long clinic on Aug. 6, he said, adding he printed information pamphlets in Punjabi about the vaccines and promoted the event on social media.

"It's word of mouth," he said. "That's how they find out, and that's how they came."

The group had 200 doses available, but Sandhu wasn't worried about leftovers — the organizers he'd partnered with would take them to their next pop-up clinic.

"Even a single vaccinated (person) would've made us feel better," he said.

Seven Oaks School Division superintendent Brian O'Leary has seen a dropoff in the number of people showing up at the division's pop-up clinics.

There have been eight in the Maples area since the end of June. In early July, 150 doses were being used every hour. Another 150 people got their shots at a Monday clinic, but it took much longer, O'Leary said.

"I think we see that as a positive sign, as we're reaching a bit of a saturation point," he said.

The division might hold a couple more clinics before the end of the month, but organizers are looking ahead to getting children vaccinated in school, he said.

Manitoba will continue to provide doses to community-hosted clinics, a provincial spokesperson said in a written statement.

"The community clinics, in partnership with trusted partners, are an important and highly essential option in reaching individuals who might not otherwise have an opportunity to get immunized due to barriers," the spokesperson said.

gabrielle.piche@freepress.mb.ca

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
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Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.

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