In an effort to get as many shots in arms as possible, a duo of Hamilton-based doctors is hitting the streets. Shelter Health Networks’ Lead Physician Kerry Beal and her teammate, Dr. Joe Oliver, are on a mission to reach people who are hesitant or unable to get to a vaccination clinic by bringing the clinic to them.
Shelter Health Networks is a group of physicians that provide medical care in Hamilton’s shelters, and what started as an initiative to provide COVID-19 tests and vaccines to locals experiencing homelessness has since evolved to help people from all walks of life access the vaccine.
Beal told Curiocity in an interview that they’d first administered doses to residents and staff at their 51 shelters over the winter and spring. By the time there were enough vaccines for everyone in Ontario, they decided to take the doses in their vaccine fridge to places like food banks, where people could simply show up and get their shot, including refugees who don’t have OHIP cards to make appointments with.
“From there, I put together a bunch of little baskets and said, ‘Okay, we’re going to go out and find people where they are,” said Beal. “We would take our little baskets and wander street to street to see if we could find arms to put shots in.” Beal said they even have a mobile printer to give people their official vaccine receipt once they’re done.
Oliver brings his young kids along on occasion, towing them in a wagon behind him as he looks for willing recipients. He says it’s been a “teaching opportunity” for them, but admits that having them tag along can slow him down.
Beal and Oliver have been covering a lot of ground, hitting up places like bubble tea shops and bus shelters. “There was a lady standing there waiting for the bus, and we said, ‘Would you like a vaccine?’ She said she needed one, but she needed to get on her bus. So she got on the bus and we took the bus driver off of the bus and vaccinated him for 15 minutes,” said Beal, laughing.
The duo says they’ve had “an amazing number of takers,” and that many of them are individuals working long shifts who don’t have the time to go out and get their shot. Although they’ve gotten some nasty remarks from some people, most are gracious and kind. After all, how can anyone say no to these two?