Construction crews were busy in the curling rink at Archie Browning Sports Centre in Esquimalt on Friday, installing wheelchair ramps and putting the finishing touches on a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic scheduled to open Monday morning.
Signs were posted advising people to refrain from taking video footage or photographs and to follow provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice: “Be kind, be calm and be safe.”
Island Health expects to move up to 360 people through the clinic each day, beginning next week with seniors 90 years of age and older and Indigenous people 65 years of age and up, said Dr. Mike Benusic, a medical health officer.
“At this time last year, I was in Toronto where we actually had the first case of COVID in Canada,” he said. “And so, to be here now, talking about the rollout of mass vaccinations — and to think that already on the Island one in 13 people have received at least one dose of vaccine — it just blows me away.
“It just fills me with so much hope that we will end this pandemic.”
Archie Browning is one of 19 clinics from Port Hardy to Sooke where more than 40,000 Island residents will receive their first COVID-19 vaccine over the next month as part of the largest immunization rollout in B.C. history.
Benusic gave reporters a tour of the Archie Browning facility Friday and provided a detailed rundown of what people can expect once they arrive for their appointments.
There is free parking at the arena and people are asked to show up no earlier than 10 minutes before their scheduled time to avoid congestion.
People must wear a mask and will have to answer standard COVID-19 screening questions before entering the building to register. They will have to produce identification — ideally a B.C. Services Card with a personal health number on it to speed registration — but nobody will be turned away if they don’t have a card with them.
Once registered, people will enter a lineup to get vaccinated. There will be wheelchairs and porters to assist those with mobility challenges.
Benusic said Island Health expects to have four to six vaccination stations operating at a time, with each station able to do about 12 vaccinations an hour.
“That’s going to ebb and flow based on who’s eligible that week, but we’re expecting next week, when we start, that we’ll have about 220 to 360 people coming through this site a day,” he said.
People will be asked a number of questions prior to getting the shot to make sure they have no conditions that might preclude them from receiving the vaccine.
“The main thing with that is to determine if they have an allergy to one of the ingredients of the vaccine,” Benusic said.
In an effort to accelerate the process, Island Health is recommending people wear short sleeves or sleeves that are easy to roll up.
After getting the vaccine, people will have to wait for about 15 minutes in a socially distanced seating area where they will be monitored by medical staff to make sure they have no adverse side effects.
Benusic said the main concern is anaphylaxis, a particularly serious allergic reaction, but one that is treatable and extremely rare, occurring in about one in 100,000 cases.
Once they have waited for 15 minutes, people will be free to leave with a card showing that they have received the first dose of vaccine.
“It’ll also be registered in the provincial system, so we’ll have on record that they’ve received their COVID-19 vaccine.
“That will also allow us to contact people when they’re due for their second dose.”
The entire process from beginning to end is expected to take about 30 minutes.