Island Health taking ‘Whole of Community’ approach to immunize all adults on Gabriola

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, March 10 2021

Island Health announced on March 7 that Gabriola, along with 19 other Island Health Communities will be the site of ‘whole of community’ clinics to immunize all adults in the population who wish to receive a COVID vaccine - in one or two days.

The details on the date of Gabriola’s clinic, and what vaccine will be distributed, had not been released at press time.

Island Health staff stated in their press release that the community clinics will be held in communities with a small population (under 4,000 residents) which have challenges with accessibility (ie, accessible only by ferry or air or more than 3 hours ground travel from a hospital). 

Depending on the size of the community this may result in the entire adult population of the community having the opportunity to be vaccinated during a single health authority visit to the community (in one day or on consecutive days), or over two health authority visits. 

Details on when the vaccination clinics will occur will be communicated in the coming days.

Dr. Tracey Thorne, speaking on behalf of the team at the Gabriola Medical Clinic, said, “The whole team at the Gabriola Medical Clinic is thrilled that Gabriola Island will be part of the province’s Whole Community Approach to Immunization strategy. It brings the staff peace to know our community could be protected from this terrible virus in a matter of weeks. 

“The main goal of the community should now be to ensure we have a tremendous turn out for the immunization clinics when they are underway. We know that in order for this pandemic to end we need to vaccinate the vast majority of our population. 

“We would love to see all eligible adults take full advantage of these local clinics and get the vaccine as quickly as it is offered to them.”

“The doctors and staff at the clinic also want to thank the staff at Island Health and the Ministry of Health who have worked so hard to design and implement a rural vaccination strategy that takes into account our unique geography and population. 

“We will have better rural vaccination rates because this service is being brought to our community. 

“We appreciate how much work and time it will take for public health to travel to rural communities, and we can’t wait to welcome the team and make sure they know how much we appreciate their effort!”

When planning community clinic locations, Island Health focused on key principles including:

• Ease of access - in more urban areas we strived to establish a travel time of approximately no more than 15 minutes; 

• Accessible by individuals with mobility challenges, including but not limited to wheelchair and walker access;

• On or close to major transportation routes and bus routes;

• The availability of functional clinic space and space to support appropriate physical distancing.

The start of the registration process for immunizations on March 8 began the largest immunization rollout anyone in Island Health has experienced.

Starting March 8, Indigenous individuals age 65 and older, along with Elders, and non-indigenous individuals age 90 and older can call to book for vaccination appointments starting on March 15.

After this week, Island Health will then move to register the 85 and older population, and then the 80 and older population. Island Health plans to have all of these populations vaccinated by April 12.

Persons over 80 who live in communities such as Gabriola are still able to call in to Island Health for an appointment once their age category is eligible to do so.

To register for an appointment, eligible individuals or a representative should call 1-833-348-4787 between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. seven days a week.

For residents age 80 and older who live in the communities which will be hosting community clinics, if the whole community approach clinic is not scheduled prior to April 12, Island Health will ensure you have the opportunity to be vaccinated in or close to your community prior to April 12. 

Please contact the Island Health call centre during the week that you are eligible for your age group.

Island Health has brought on additional staff to help support the volumes of calls it expects to receive beginning March 8.

Staff said, “We appreciate your patience and your continued kindness, as you have shown health-care teams through the past year. This is the largest immunization rollout any of us has experienced, and it will not be without challenges. 

“We will get through those challenges together, as we move closer to a time when we can be together with our loved ones and friends once again.”

The full list of communities where entire populations will be immunized over one or two days is: Bamfield, Cortes Island, Denman Island, Gabriola Island, Galiano Island, Gold River, Hornby Island, Kyuquot, Lasqueti Island, Mayne Island, North Pender Island, Penelakut, Port Alice, Port Hardy, Port McNeil, Port Renfrew/Jordan River, Quadra Island, Read Island, Saturna Island, Sayward, Sointula, South Pender Island, Tahsis, Thetis Island, Tofino, Ucluelet, Zeballos.