Delta’s mayor is asking Fraser Health to keep North Delta in mind as the health authority finalizes where it is going to host COVID-19 vaccination clinics.
In a letter to Fraser Health president and CEO Dr. Victoria Lee March 1, Mayor George Harvie said it is essential there be a vaccinate site in North Delta to compliment the planned South Delta location, noting North Delta is home to the largest percentage of the city’s population.
Harvie said city staff have been instructed to support vaccination clinics “in whatever means possible,” including using Delta’s seniors’ busses to transport residents to and from clinic locations, providing interpreters to overcome any language barriers and working with Delta Fire — whose members receive emergency medical responder training — to assist in vaccination rollout as needed.
“The City of Delta is not well served by transit and we must ensure that every opportunity is available locally for residents. Having these systems in place will ensure the highest level of vaccination participation, especially for Delta’s most vulnerable population,” Harvie wrote.
Harvie acknowledged the gymnasium at North Delta Recreation Centre may not fit all of Fraser Health’s criteria, but offered other options including both the Sungod and NDRC arenas and the Kennedy Seniors’ Recreation Centre.
“I appreciate the difficult decisions facing Fraser Health and the Province and appreciate all your work to date, however, I would respectfully ask that you reconsider a North Delta site to serve this population.”
On March 2, interim opposition leader Shirley Bond raised the issue during question period, citing comments made the day before by Premier John Horgan that seniors in Hope would not have to travel to neighbouring communities in order to get the vaccine.
“Yesterday the premier made a promise that seniors would be vaccinated in their communities. So today will he ensure that the residents of North Delta have a vaccination site for seniors? And, frankly, will he please give clear direction to health authorities so that day after day we’re not bringing another community expressing concerns and fears about their frail elderly citizens?” Bond asked.
Horgan responded by calling the immunization roll out an “extremely complicated situation” that requires everyone work together.
“So if our objective is to reduce anxiety, I suggest that we collectively put our shoulder to the wheel and work co-operatively to reduce anxiety,” Horgan said.
The premier then suggested Bond get a lesson in local geography.
“With respect to the particular request by the mayor of Delta, we’ll take that under consideration. But the member will also know that if you live in North Delta, you are right beside Surrey. It is a different community, but it is the same community for commerce … for shopping, for social interactions,” Horgan said. “Perhaps a geography lesson would be in order here.”
Last month, Surrey city council signed off on the Fraser Health Authority operating mass vaccination sites at four city-owned locations: Clayton Recreation Centre, Cloverdale Recreation Centre, South Surrey Recreation and Arts Centre and Guildford Recreation Centre.
A report by city staff indicates Fraser Health plans to utilize the first three as primary sites, with the Guildford Recreation Centre — the closest of the four to North Delta — as a back-up location.
The report also notes the four sites are in addition to the existing three testing and vaccination sites in Surrey being utilized by Fraser Health (10025 King George Blvd., 14577 66 Ave., and the South Surrey Park & Ride).
While Fraser Health has yet to say where the South Delta vaccination clinic will be, it does currently operate a test collection centre at 4470 Clarence Taylor Cres. in Ladner.
Meanwhile, the province announced on Monday that it will begin immunizing seniors 90 and over next week.
Anticipating a huge demand from seniors living at home and their relatives for the coronavirus vaccine, the province has arranged a rolling schedule by age for people to contact their regional health authority for appointments. It begins with people aged 90 and up booking appointments starting March 8, with appointments starting March 15.
Those 85 and up can call starting March 15, with vaccinations starting March 22, and people aged 80 and up or their relatives can call starting March 22, with vaccinations starting March 29.
The phone line for Fraser Health (1-855-755-2455) will be activated starting March 8. Call centre information and a step-by-step process are available at gov.bc.ca/bcseniorsfirst and fraserhealth.ca. Relatives or friends of elderly people are allowed to call for appointments on their behalf when they are eligible.
The Fraser Health region, with more people and more seniors than the other four B.C. regions, will have online bookings available as well, in an effort to ease a rush of phone calls that provincial call centre staff may be unable to keep up with at first.
— with files from Tom Zytaruk and Tom Fletcher