In February 2021, the CAMH COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic opened its doors to meet the unprecedented demand from eager patients, community members, and staff looking to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. At the time, vaccines were in very limited supply and our clinic offered a convenient, easy, and accessible way for vulnerable groups with at-risk health conditions to secure vaccine appointments. Dedicated staff from our Operations, Professional Practice, Pharmacy Services, and Corporate Services team worked together, with the support of colleagues at St. Michael’s Hospital at Unity Health, to secure the vaccines and get the operation up and running in less than one week. This was only made possible by an “all hands on deck” approach with colleagues stepping up to fulfil critical roles from running the registration desk to ensuring crowd control. This includes staff from our Research Services who provided ultra-low temperature freezers to store the vaccines, Procurement Services who stocked up the required medical supplies, and medical staff who made themselves available as vaccinators and monitoring physicians. CAMH also worked closely with the University Health Network and the Viral Hepatitis Care Network to bring Hepatitis C screening into the clinic setting at a time when health-screening interventions were reduced due to the pandemic.
The clinic went on to offer second, third and fourth doses to our broad patient population, health care workers, and local community, introducing a “drop-in” option that allowed individuals to receive their vaccination without the need to book an appointment, thereby reducing barriers.
Throughout its operation, the clinic administered over 37,000 vaccines, while also offering specialty clinics for children, those with needle and medical anxiety, culturally diverse community groups, adults with developmental disabilities and individuals who identify as 2SLGBTQ+. The clinic worked closely with community partners in the Mid-West and West Ontario Health Teams (OHT) to support priority neighbourhoods with clinic days specifically for community members in Parkdale, and launched a small mobile effort to offer vaccines to community members living in encampments in our local parks. The clinic also partnered with the Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario to answer questions, provide information, and administer vaccinations to reach this underserved population.
During spring 2021, CAMH held a special access clinic dedicated exclusively to adults of all ages with developmental disabilities. At the time, the provincial government included these individuals in the high-risk category for phase two of the first dose vaccine rollout. Recognizing the importance of providing a comfortable and quiet environment with reduced environmental stimulation for this group, the clinic was set up with comfortable beanbag chairs and a large-screen television with soothing underwater ocean visuals displayed. Attendees also had the option of settling in at a table where they could stay with their support person from start to finish.
In fall 2021, CAMH began to offer a specialty vaccine clinic for those with needlephobia and medical anxiety. For some, their anxiety about the needle is what made them most hesitant to receive the vaccine; our specialty clinic reduced these barriers by providing a setting that was accommodating and comfortable to all patients. The clinic implemented an evidence-based approach known as the CARD System (Comfort, Ask, Relax, Distract) method to address individuals’ fear of needles. This clinic was extremely effective, as many patients were able to receive the vaccine after prior unsuccessful attempts at other clinics.
Most recently, in late March 2022, CAMH organized a successful specialty vaccine clinic for 2SLGBTQ+ individuals. In recognition of the importance of providing inclusive and affirming health care spaces, this clinic addressed the recommendations made in an earlier CAMH-led study by Dr. Alex Abramovich about how to address vaccine hesitancy among 2SLGBTQ+ youth. Working with peer ambassadors and external organizations like The 519, the clinic provided a space for youth to ask questions, feel supported, and receive their vaccine. The community responded positively, with over three times the number of vaccinations administered than during a typical weekday.
After over a year of serving the community, our COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic held its final day of operation on April 21. CAMH is proud to have contributed to the health and safety of our local community and have heard positive stories from many of our neighbours who got themselves and their families vaccinated at the clinic.
While the clinic is now closed, staff, patients and community members who would like to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at CAMH can still do so at the CAMH Outpatient Pharmacy, which operates Monday to Friday, from 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM.
Appointment booking requests and inquiries may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org; walk-ins are welcome before 4:00 PM.