Residents of the Downtown Eastside received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Friday as part of Vancouver Coastal Health’s efforts to immunize priority populations.

The health authority said that, given the dual public health emergencies of the pandemic and the overdose crisis, the community is especially vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19.

The four drop-in clinics were set up at Carnergie Centre, Pender Community Health Centre, Downton Community Health Centre, and Union Gospel Mission.

The temporary clinics are intended to provide broader access to vaccines, Vancouver Coastal Health said, rather than the site-by-site approach taken previously.

Those who are homeless, as well as residents of shelters, SROs, or supportive housing, were eligible to receive a vaccine at the sites.

The health authority noted that it had seen clusters of COVID-19 cases in congregate settings, such as shelters and SROs, where physical distancing is difficult.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reiterated the need to vaccinate the province’s vulnerable populations at a Friday afternoon press conference.

“We have transmission in some of our shelters,” Henry said.

“We know that people in those situations are much more likely to get severe illness, end up in hospital. So we are doing some targeted immunization in those communities.”

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