HIGHGATE – Getting a needle doesn’t typically get people excited, but it’s a different story when a potentially life-saving vaccine is brought right to your community.
Area residents were thrilled a mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinic was held Saturday at the Mary Webb Centre in this hamlet on the eastern edge of Chatham-Kent.
Highgate resident Francis Webb, who has been experiencing some health issues, was so happy when he heard the clinic was coming, he “would have jumped up and down” if he could.
“It was fabulous, a really, really good process,” he said shortly after receiving his shot.
Webb’s wife, Diane, also had high praise after receiving the vaccine.
“This was incredibly convenient,” she said.
If her husband was in better health, she added, they could have walked to the clinic while “registering online was super-easy.”
Highgate residents Liz Phelan and Elaine Heffernan also got their shots on Saturday.
“We were very excited. It was right down the street. It was so handy,” Phelan said.
She added their foster daughter went to the Bradley Centre vaccination clinic in Chatham to get her shot.
Since they have two at-risk kids in their household, having such ease of access to the vaccine was a huge benefit, Phelan said.
“It was fast and thorough, very organized,” Heffernan said of the process. “I’m glad it’s done.”
The vaccination clinics are operated in partnership with Chatham-Kent public health, the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance and Chatham-Kent EMS.
More than 300 people were vaccinated at another mobile clinic – this one held in Wheatley on Thursday – that achieved the same number as inoculations as Highgate.
“We’ve learned a lot with the Bradley Centre with workflow and processes, so we just applied that in his model,” said Donald MacLellan, general manager of Chatham-Kent EMS.
“Being able to bring care to a rural community is a huge objective we want to achieve here and we’re certainly doing that.”
MacLellan said public health, the region’s hospital group and the paramedic service were strong partners before the pandemic hit, but that partnership has become even stronger during COVID as they’ve created new, innovative solutions, such as taking both mobile swabbing and vaccination clinics on the road to Chatham-Kent communities.
“We wouldn’t be able to make this possible without the partnerships,” MacLellan said.
Mark Reinhart, who is doing communications and community engagement for public health, is documenting behind the scenes to show how the clinics have been going, including snapping a few photos and collecting “some stories of the reasons why people are getting vaccinated.”
He’s been hearing some people want to keep each other safe while others want to do their part to put the pandemic in the past.
“It feels very Chatham-Kent when we’re able to bring the vaccine to people and pop up in these communities,” Reinhart said.
Chatham-Kent has done so well at providing vaccination clinics that some folks from outside the community have made a trip to get their jab.
Tammie Ramsay came in from St. Thomas, noting her hometown and nearby London are only providing vaccines to people 65 and older.
Calling the process for registering and getting vaccinated “absolutely amazing,” she said she was “thankful that I live next door to Chatham-Kent.”
West Lorne couple Curtis and Christine Hay also appreciated being able to get vaccination shots in Highgate.
“It was our closest access,” said Curtis Hay, adding their next nearest location was St. Thomas. “This was really convenient, so we registered online.”
Strathroy resident Colleen Lashbrook said the vaccine was available earlier in Highgate than in her home area.
With the province extending the lockdown, she said getting vaccinated is “more important now than ever, just because we have a family, and extended family with grandchildren, and we want to be around them.”