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Opinion: Fraser Health’s pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinic an exclusionary gong show

The clinic made the health authority look disorganized and exclusionary to many different groups

Back around 1987 – things are a little fuzzy at my age – I was wandering around downtown Vancouver listening to a local rock station on a thing called a “Walkman” when the DJ announced that U2 tickets were going on sale.

The catch was that you needed to get to a ticket booth right away to get a wristband for the ticket lineup. This led to me and hundreds of others racing to get to the ticket booth.

It’s a cute memory for me and that’s how things were done back then.

But that’s not how things should be done in relation to getting the COVID-19 jab. And yet, that’s how things played out on Tuesday for thousands of people as Fraser Health staged a pop-up vaccination clinic in Coquitlam.

In Coquitlam at the Poirier Forum, thousands of people showed up to the site to get jabbed, with many waiting for hours in a lineup. One tweet I saw said more than 2,400 people got vaccinated.

I am, of course, excited to see that people are ready and willing to be vaccinated – that’s great news. But how Fraser Health handled this was pretty awful.

Many people who lined up said they heard about it from their doctors, but many others said they learned about it through social media hours before Fraser Health even sent out a news release. Those who saw it on Twitter or Facebook then raced down to the Poirier site and lined up.

This is not how things should be done.

For one thing, it created a messy situation at the site with thousands of people lined up for more than a kilometre.

But even worse was how exclusionary it all was.

This approach by Fraser Health left out a lot of people, including those who aren’t on social media, either at all or while they are working. Some people don’t have that luxury to troll Facebook while on the job.

The approach also discriminated against people who don’t have the kinds of jobs where they can just beg off for a few hours or the rest of the day. (Today, the province did announce three hours of paid leave to get the vaccine, but that’s too late for people on Tuesday and many ended up being at the site longer than three hours.)

Burnaby physician Dr. Birinder Narang also tweeted out about another issue with this approach – language.

“Flabbergasted by the inconsistencies about vaccine information. What is the point in doing news conferences announcing plans for the week & no mention that the NEXT day 30 year olds have access in HOT SPOT areas? People w/ language barriers are expected to learn from Twitter?”

Some people who found out too late were downright angry at how the whole thing was handled. I agree. It benefited a certain type of person with the privilege to take advantage of it.

The entire mess made Fraser Health and B.C.’s entire vaccine rollout look half-assed and disorganized.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.