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Pop-up vaccine site in one of the most affected areas of Canada

The Gritti neighborhood is one of Canada’s most dreamy and picturesque cities, in about 15 blocks that are the country’s poorest and most illegal.

A center of Canada’s opioid crisis, the region has become a symbol of urban poverty, drug addiction and social marginalization in one of the world’s wealthiest countries, but also one of resilience, community and progressive social policies.

Men and women are injected with illegal drugs into street streets just steps from Gastown, which is linked to gastro pubs and upmarket restaurants. The neighborhood also houses North America’s first supervised injection site, where people inject opioids, crack and crystal meth under the supervision of nurses, and are provided with clean, complimentary syringes and other supplies.

Since the beginning of this year, the Downtown Eastside has also hosted a pioneering event in which the local health authority has provided free vaccinations against Kovid-19 to help homeless people and those living in shelters or neighborhoods. It has installed mobile vaccination tents, targeted people across food lines and even offered $ 5 to those receiving the vaccine.

During a period when there has been relatively lethargic vaccination fury and despair in Canada, some local residents have complained of their tax dollars going to the homeless for vaccinations when they themselves do not access the vaccine.

But the public health officer of the health authority overseeing the program, Drs. Althea Hayden told me that providing vaccines to the most vulnerable people in the city was a public health imperative: people in the neighborhood were four times as likely to be hospitalized or die. If they contract Kovid-19 as the general population. Many had compromised immune systems, faced major challenges to self-isolation and were at high risk of catching the disease and passing it on to others.

“Vulnerable communities are those who suffer the effects of any communicable disease and have bad consequences,” he told me. “I was expecting more of a backlash, but people understand why it’s important.”

British Columbia has suffered from twin health emergencies: deaths from a deadly epidemic and drug overdoses. In 2020 alone, there were more than 1,724 deaths in the state Drug overdoses or, on average, around 4.7 deaths per day British Columbia Coroners Service.

The vaccination program is under severe stress due to British Columbia’s health care system as hospitalized physicians have to reach new heights. As of Friday, the province had registered 123,000 cases of Kovid-19, of which 1,550 people have died.

April 23, 2021, 3:51 pm ET

Meanwhile, in the Downtown Eastside, the virus appears to be largely contained. In mid-February, according to the local health authority, there were about 75 cases of coronovirus a week in the neighborhood. Today, about 7,500 local residents have been vaccinated and cases have been reduced to about five this week.

This week, Alana Patterson, A photographer from The New York Times set with his camera to document the vaccination program in action. A Vancouver resident, she told me that she was very happy with the way dedicated nurses had managed to establish trust in a community with a strong distrust of authority. Some residents had told the nurses that they were too afraid to get vaccinated.

On Wednesday, in a temporary vaccination pop-up in the heart of the neighborhood, Alana saw dozens of people lined up to vaccinate, some slipping into folding chairs. A man with a green mustache and a tattoo patiently wore his mask while receiving the vaccine. Another was intoxicated that he could barely stand. The nurses gave her a bottle of water and a lollipop, and after her shot, she put a hand sanitizer in her water bottle and guided it.

In the surrounding streets, Alana told me, she saw people holding drug needles, some in their pockets or in their shoes. Others lay high, in a fetal position on the pavement. At the prevention site of overdose, a blind pregnant woman injected herself. The three nurses ran and called a doctor to themselves.

In the vaccination pop-up, a man, dressed in laborers, reacted with fury when he was whisked away after being determined by a nurse that he was ineligible because he was in a more gentrified, upmarket area Lived in a condominium.

“I walk by these people every day,” he protested. “this is outrageous.”

But health workers said the program’s mission was to limit vaccination to those who are unsafe, while vaccine tourists from other parts of the city were also required to avoid chaos.

“Vaccination here is necessary to help prevent a public health disaster in the city because they are part of the community,” Alana told me, if an invasion of coronovirus occurs, “it would be like a bomb and in some way. Will not. To control it. “


Dan Bielfsky is a Canada correspondent for The New York Times based in Montreal. He was previously based in London, Paris, Prague and New York. He is the author of the book “The Last Job”, about a gang of aging English thieves called “The Bad Grandpas”. @DanBilefsky


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This week’s Trans Canada section was compiled by Ian Austen, Ottawa correspondent for The Times.


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