CTVNews article published April 24, 2021
By Colton Praill, CTV News, Ottawa
OTTAWA -- Against a backdrop of multiple waitlists, cancelled bookings, and the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, some Ottawa family doctors are offering a simple solution.
A drive-thru clinic that vaccinated hundreds of people on Saturday.
"The process was amazing. We got an email from our family doctor, made the appointment for both of us at the same time. Made the appointment for 12:10 and at 12:15 we were finished," said Nicole Katz, who received her vaccine at the clinic in the parking lot of The Metropolitan Bible Church.
Katz says she was able to book the appointments for her and her husband within days of the email from her doctor.
"Going through the family doctor was good, it felt like we were going through a process that exists, a system that already exists," Katz said.
She was just one of hundreds of people passing through the parking lot Saturday, guided by dozens of volunteers and vaccinated by a team of medical staff.
"This is our bread and butter. We do vaccines every day, we do masked flu shot clinics every year. This is what we do. We love vaccines and frankly, we’re good at it," said Dr. Nicole Shadbolt, a family physician with the Rideau Family Health Team and one of the organizers of the drive-thru clinic.
Shadbolt says organizing the clinic took patience and was a challenge for her booking team.
"We did a flu shot clinic in the fall with the same process so we kind of tested the model. The difference is with the COVID vaccine there’s a provincial database that is fairly heavy for us so getting the electronics working was a bigger job," she said.
Once a plan was in place, getting patients to book appointments was easy.
"People like being in their car, they’re happy, it’s easy for us, the flow works, we don’t have people running into each other. The key piece is that the MET Bible Church was able to give us their parking lot and they’ve been very cooperative. You couldn’t do it without a big space like this," Dr. Shadbolt added.
Across the city another family doctor organized a pop-up clinic of her own.
"There are a lot of people in Ottawa who haven’t been able to access the vaccine and we wanted to get it out to as many people as possible to ensure everybody would get the first dose available to them," Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth said.
With help from city administration, Dr. Kaplan-Myrth closed Fourth Avenue in the Glebe on Saturday. Outside Common Ground Collaborative Care dozens of essential workers waited for a vaccine.
"These are all people who are falling through the cracks, who are on wait lists at pharmacies, who can’t get into public health, and you know I said that family doctors would do what we could to immunize the community so this is what we’re doing," Dr. Kaplan-Myrth said.
In a province where getting a vaccine appointment has proved challenging for many, these two doctors created the opposite.
"It was really great, super smooth and I was really impressed there were doctors to talk to and ask any (about) questions or concerns or anything that we had," said Bianca Saccu, who received her shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine at the drive-thru clinic.
Both Dr. Shadbolt and Dr. Kaplan-Myrth say family doctors are in unique positions to get the vaccines into the community and ensure those hesitant to get the vaccine have the right information.
"I spoke to one patient today who drove by me and said, 'I’m really worried, are you sure, is this a good idea?' As the family doctor I was able to say yes, because I know this about you and I know your history and I know this is the right choice for you," Dr. Shadbolt said.
"There’s so much heartache. People who want the vaccine but are struggling to get it and so many inequalities in terms of how people are able to access the vaccine, so we’re just doing our best on a community level to make sure we’re able to vaccinate more people in Ottawa," Dr. Kaplan-Myrth echoed.
Both doctors say they hope to get more vaccine supply to continue their vaccination efforts within the community.
"People will step up so quickly to get this done, the real barrier is the bureaucracy," Dr. Kaplan-Myrth said.