'Light at the end of the tunnel': Scarborough vaccination clinic giving front-line workers relief


TORONTO -- The area hardest hit by COVID-19 in Toronto is turning the tide, one shot at a time.

Inside a vaccination clinic in Scarborough, they aren't just giving the vaccine, they're giving front-line workers much needed relief.

"The physical feeling of finally being vaccinated, it felt like a burden being lifted off my shoulders," said Joseph Chan, a pharmacist inside the Intensice Care Unit (ICU) at Centenary Hospital.

Today, Chan was called to the vaccine clinic and given his first dose after a year where he was afraid and exhausted.

"After a couple of months, it felt kind of numbing. There's talk about COVID fatigue and it's definitely real," he said.

The spread of COVID-19 has been relentlessly cruel in the Scarborough Health Network. Board chair Maureen Adamson says, "we are ground zero." On any given day she says that 70 per cent of Toronto's new COVID cases are coming from here.

For example, on Dec. 29, the positivity rate for COVID-19 tests in Ontario was high at 8.4 per cent. In Scarborough, of over 1,100 tests administered, the positivity rate was a massive 20 per cent--meaning one in five tests was positive.

As for hospital capacity, over 60 percent of the ICU capacity is currently occupied by confirmed or possible COVID patients.

"We're expecting spikes in January right through to mid-February and then we think there will be a progressive decline," Chief Of Staff Dr. Albert Lauwers said.

The decline, he says, will be due to vaccinations.

Since they began on Dec. 22, SHN have administered about 220 vaccinations per day to a mix of long-term care and hospital staff. And they will continue seven days a week. Lauwers says.

"It's the light at the end of the tunnel."

As more vaccine doses enter the country, Maureen Adamson says they need the government to focus on the most affected areas first.

"It's really important that we appreciate this pandemic has not been equal in how it has hit communities," she said. "Scarborough needs to be a priority when we're talking about vaccination distribution so that we can put our own masks on first, to save others."

And though he has been fighting with his mask on for 10 months, now that Joseph Chan has been vaccinated, the light at the end of the tunnel is something he can see.

"Seeing people come in, day after day, being really sick because of COVID-19 and then seeing in the news how some people take it lightly is, those are two things that whey heavily on my mind but the fact that we're vaccinated now, gives me new hope for the future."

Hope at the end of a most bleak year.