Why did I want the vaccine?
Isaiah went to get the COVID-19 vaccine with Clovis (Dad) and Sherron (Mom). They all wanted the vaccine to stay safe and help protect others. The three had been looking for a chance to get the vaccine, but struggling to find a location that was able to support Isaiah who has special needs, but also able to vaccinate all three of them at the same time.
What helped me prepare for the vaccine?
Isaiah and his family don’t mind shots too much, but they still needed to prepare for the vaccine in other ways. The hardest part for them was finding a place that they were able to get vaccinated. The process was confusing and frustrating. Clovis and Sherron were eligible for the vaccine, but were struggling to find a clinic that would support Isaiah’s need for movement and minimize the time he would have to spend in lines and crowds. The family knew that it was important for them to get vaccinated at the same time and it was extremely challenging to find a clinic willing to do this, while supporting Isaiah. They were ecstatic when Surrey Place, an agency providing clinical services to people with developmental disabilities in Toronto, reached out to them offering an appointment for all three of them to get vaccinated at their drive-through clinic held in partnership with UHN. By Surrey Place reaching out, the family no longer had to search for accessible clinics and were relieved to feel supported by a familiar place.
What was helpful and what wasn't helpful
“It was like you paid for an economy ticket, but got first class” Clovis shared about the vaccine clinic set up by Surrey Place. The family did not know what to expect and were floored by the person-centered and disability-centered approach that was beyond their expectations. Clovis shared several ingredients that were crucial to the success of the clinic and the comfort felt by their family. Primarily, the “spirit of the people” was what made the difference. Everyone there was warm, kind and sensitive, it really created a special environment where everyone felt calm. Isaiah shared that the doctor giving the shot was very nice.
The family was able to drive-through the clinic, with the option of getting out of the car for the vaccination or staying inside. The family then was able to wait in their own vehicle during the 15min wait time. Isaiah chose to go inside the outdoor clinic which was quiet, not crowded and had no lines, allowing him to feel at ease. The family had been to Surrey Place before, which provided comfort to Isaiah to be in a familiar environment. The kindness and adaptability of the staff, low barrier and calm environment made the difference in the family’s vaccination day—and getting all three done at once was certainly a bonus! Isaiah was excited to get the vaccine and having the entire family together. Crowds usually make him very anxious and stressed, but he was happy and excited throughout the experience as there were no crowds and he was able to wait comfortably in his vehicle after the needle.
Advice for other people
Isaiah’s family was fortunate to be able to take time away from work and drive to downtown Toronto from Scarborough, which Sherron noted is not always accessible to people given their different life circumstances. “It is great that this clinic exists, but it is important to consider pop-up clinics or different ways of accessing these same resources without going downtown”. Sherron emphasized the importance of creating equitable access to the vaccination accommodations a population may need, wherever they live. It is important to remember how beneficial this specialized clinic was for Sherron and her family, however, that many other families just can’t make the drive.
The Surrey Place clinic process was in stark contrast to the process they experienced before which was individually focused and difficult to get a clinic appointment for their entire family together. Isaiah’s family found the standard process difficult to navigate; It might be even harder for people with disabilities who live alone and don’t have family support. Partnerships between the disability sector and the public health sector are key. Isaiah’s family wants to see a more equitable process with vaccines being rolled out in a different way for the disability community. They hope that more partnerships can happen between public health and the community agencies who understand disabilities best. Everyone has a right to get vaccinated close to home, in a way that is supportive and flexible to meet their unique needs.