Homeless population in Toronto faces barriers to vaccination, while outbreak of COVID-19 has spread to shelters


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The Maxwell Meighen Center, near Moss Park in the city of Toronto, is one of several locations across Toronto housing the homeless during COVID-19.

Fred Lum / The Globe and Mail

Advocates say the vaccine rollout among Toronto’s homeless population has slowed amid an outbreak of COVID-19 outbreaks in city shelters.

Although initially sharp when people experiencing homelessness started receiving COVID-19 vaccines in early March, vaccination speeds have declined since then, as visits to mobile vaccination clinics in shelters were delayed. Is, Doug Johnson Hatlem, a street. Pastor in the Sanctuary of Christianity.

“It’s really hit or miss – but miss more than hit – can they vaccinate places in outbreaks, and so many places have outbreaks,” he said. “A lot of these [mobile vaccination clinics] The outbreak has been set and canceled. “

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Outbreaks in shelters have increased in the last two months. As of Monday, the city reported 220 active COVID-19 cases at 14 locations. Up from 135 active cases at 10 locations at the end of February.

A total of 10 people living in the shelter system have died of COVID-19 related issues since the onset of the epidemic. Advocates say that more than 5,800 people are using Toronto’s shelter system daily, exceeding the COVID-19 death rate of about one per 1,000 people among the city’s general population.

The majority of outbreaks are occurring in facilities that still serve as isolated living settings, where people often sleep in places like the warehouse, said Diana Chan McNally, a training with Toronto drop-in network and Engagement Coordinator. Even in places where physical disturbances are possible and Plexiglas walls are installed, there are insufficient measures to prevent aerial spread of coronovirus, she said.

In addition, city data does not reflect the full extent of the outbreaks. She hears from outreach activists in Toronto.

“Some outbreaks did not include it in their data until they started,” she said. “We don’t really have an accurate picture of what’s going on – for those of us on the ground, it’s really hard to understand the risk and then try to reduce it.”

In an e-mail statement, Toronto’s associate medical officer of health, Dr. Vinita Dubey said that as of April 30, more than 1,900 vaccinations had been done to individuals experiencing homelessness. This shelter is about 33 percent of the population.

The city said in a separate e-mail last week that Toronto Public Health’s goal is to offer the first vaccine to at least 65 percent of all people experiencing homelessness, and the front- Line worker. More than 25 new shelters and hotel locations have opened and several measures have been taken to protect those in the shelter system, including two meters between beds and mandatory use of masks for staff.

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Linda Jackson, senior clinical director of the community and primary care at Unity Health Toronto, said the hesitation of the vaccine among shelter residents is no more than that of the general population. But one of the biggest hurdles is that residents are not always available, she said, so she has plans to send small teams to visit the hospital network repeatedly.

Individuals who have tested positive for the virus or are symptomatic “are not suitable for the vaccine,” Ms. Jackson said.

She said she hopes that single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be preferred for those living in shelters, as they may have a harder time needing other types of vaccines for the second dose.

Nahid Dosani, a Toronto preventive care physician and health justice activist, said that vaccinating homeless people as soon as possible should be a priority.

“Those who experience being homeless already face such significant health gaps in our communities,” he said. “If there is no excess of vaccine in this community, the gap will only widen.”

Meanwhile, 60-year-old Michael Eschbach, who has been in Toronto’s shelter system for the past 10 years, said he was “accustomed” to receiving his first dose of the modern vaccine several weeks ago, when it offered at the hotel shelter. Was done where they were staying. Mr. Eschbach was among several residents who tested positive and were asymptomatic in the outbreak of the shelter a year earlier.

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Mr. Eschbach said that while he is confined in his hotel room these days, he is aware of others who are more mobile.

“They roam the city throughout the day,” he said, adding that if they don’t get their vaccines, they are at risk of spreading the virus.

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