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WATCH: Sudbury.com toured city’s first COVID-19 mass vax clinic, opens Feb. 25

Carmichael Arena transformed into vaccination central for hundreds of priority health-care workers

Sudbury's first ever COVID-19 mass vaccination event begins tomorrow at Carmichael Arena on Bancroft Drive. It's a joint effort of Public Health Sudbury and Districts, Health Sciences North, Greater Sudbury Paramedics Service and the City of Greater Sudbury. 

The clinic will take place Thursday and Friday this week.

Members of the Sudbury media were ushered through the building Wednesday to see how the vaccinations will be carried out. Media will not be allowed in the building when patients are receiving vaccines. 

The arena's main area has been transformed into a large room filled with partitions, arrows pasted on the floor, tables and chairs and waiting areas where people will be gathered to get their first shot of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. The target is to vaccinate 1,200 people a day. 

"So when people come to the arena, the most important thing is that it is by appointment only," said Karly McGibbon, the lead public health nurse assigned to the event.

She said all those who are receiving vaccines have been contracted and given a time for when to visit the arena  

"Once the people are registered and checked in they will come here," McGibbon said at the entrance to the rink surface. "There will be staff members telling them where to go and then they will be sent to one of our twelve vaccine stations."

Each person will be screened for any conditions such as allergies or other health matters before the vaccine is given. At each station, a nurse is on hand to swab each patient's arm and then give a needle with the vaccine. McGibbon said the actual needles are the same as the small-gauge sharps used for flu shots. The needles are considered relatively painless for anyone accustomed to getting a flu shot.

Once the shot is complete, each patient will be directed to a waiting area to sit for 15 minutes to ensure they're feeling well. There is then a formal check-out area where each patient will be handed a printed receipt outlining the time and place of their first dose.

The patients will then be moved out of the building through the back doors to ensure there is no mix up with people coming in the front doors. McGibbon said the entire process should take about 30 minutes. 

"People should plan to be here for half an hour," she said. "The vaccine itself will take maybe five minutes."

She said anyone with a history of allergies might be asked to stay a bit longer so that the health-care staff can check them out before they leave.

McGibbons said the target group at this event are priority workers who up until now have not been able to get their first dose of the vaccine.  

"The people coming this week, Thursday and Friday, are staff members and essential care givers from long-term care homes. So these are people that have been identified by facilities and so their place of work, or where they're an essential care giver, notified them to say, it's your turn. Please call this number and book your appointment."

All the booking was done by the City of Greater Sudbury in collaboration with PHSD. Second doses of the Pfizer vaccine will also be booked to take place in about one month's time, said McGibbon.

McGibbon said there is no immediate word on future clinics beyond the one happening this week.

"Well, we have the two clinics right here this week," said McGibbon. "We may move to other locations. It all depends on vaccine availability when the clinics can be booked. We may use a different venue. We may return to this venue. That hasn't been set up yet."

McGibbon said the vaccines are being stored in extreme freezers at Health Sciences North. 

"What we'll do is pick it up in the morning. We'll bring it here. It has to thaw and then we have to mix it, so it is a little bit of a different process from Moderna," she said, referring to the other vaccine approved by Health Canada.

McGibbon said all those who provide the vaccines are well-trained and experienced in giving the needles.

"We are using a multitude of immunizers. We are using nurses from public health that have experienced immunizers, we are using nurses from other sectors, so we certainly have nurses from HSN coming, we have nurses from community centres, and we are also using community paramedics."


About the Author: Len Gillis, local journalism initiative reporter

Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com covering health care in northeastern Ontario and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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