At 99% first dose coverage, Northeast Calgary vaccine success history

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Nearly 99 percent of eligible residents in northeastern Calgary have now received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

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It is a statistic that puts the region in infrequent air, with vaccine use in Alberta below 88 percent for those aged 12 and over, the age group currently eligible for the sting. The Upper Northeast of Calgary now ranks number one in first-dose vaccine coverage among Alberta’s 132 local geographic areas, two percentage points ahead of second-place Edmonton Rutherford. The 92 percent use of the area for full vaccination is the second highest in Alberta.

It also represents a dramatic narrative change for the region, which at points during the pandemic has faced criticism for high rates of virus spread, including Prime Minister Jason Kenney.

Anila Lee Yuen, the CEO of the Center for Novices in the Northeast and a key organizer of community vaccination efforts, said a village is needed to achieve the remarkable results.

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“I am ecstatic that all the hard work we have done, all the advocacy and all the resources that have entered the community has actually had such a profound effect. We are literally like a community capable of saving lives by putting all those resources there, ”said Lee Yuen.

“We thought we could do well, but we didn’t realize that the intervention and the dissemination would do that well. This is one of those really proud moments. “

Vaccine education and outreach in the Northeast was a comprehensive group initiative involving Government of Alberta financial and logistical support as well as 254 organizations including the Calgary East Zone Newcomers Collaborative and Refugee Health YYC.

Efforts included a massive pop-up clinic at the Village Plaza Leisure Center – which organizers dubbed the “vaccine rodeo” – as well as drive-train vaccine clinics and trust-informed appointments at the Genesis Center. But Lee Yuen said most of the work to boost immunizations has taken place behind the scenes since December 2020, when vaccines first became available.

“What it really was was a roundabout approach,” she said. “It was a multilingual line. To reduce the number of COVID cases in any community and increase vaccine use, you need to be able to respond to the needs of the community.

“Really, the secret sauce, the silver bullet as to why this works, we met the need of the community, and we did that with respect and cooperation for the community and each other.”

It is a model that Lee Yuen hopes can be replicated in other regions of Alberta with lower immunization rates.

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The publicly available data on Alberta’s COVID-19 suggest that vaccine coverage in northeastern Calgary helped isolate the region from devastating effects seen across Alberta during the fourth wave. Since the beginning of September, the region has only seen three deaths due to the virus, after recording 78 deaths up to that point.

The working-class region, characterized by a large population of visible minorities and immigrants as well as multi-generational households, struggled through previous waves, sometimes posting the worst infection rates in Alberta.

It was “gratifying” to help build the success story for the borough, Lee Yuen said, and show what can happen when community groups work together to break down barriers.

“It’s a dense population where they are all first-line service providers. Whether it means they are a doctor or a nurse or whether it means they are a guard or a cashier is northeastern Calgary, which has provided the entire city with essential services, ”she said.

jherring@postmedia.com

Twitter: @jasonfherring

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