Michelle Joseph, CEO of Unison Health and Community Services, manages the lines at the mobile vaccination clinics.

Community, Collaboration & Caring

Applying a community lens to vaccinate those in greatest need

“Everyone was burning out, there was so much despair from the pandemic and then came this much needed hope.” 

Dr. Marc Dagher, Medical Director of COVID-19 Pandemic Programs at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) remembers the first day WCH joined the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. “Everyone was clapping and cheering, and that momentum really carried us throughout the months to come.”

That day was January 5, 2021. Since then WCH has worked with key partners including Unison Health & Community Services, YMCA, Mid-West Toronto Ontario Health Team, Toronto school boards, and many other partners to help communities with the highest rates of COVID-19 and the lowest rates of vaccination.

These partnerships with community organizations were the key to success and allowed WCH to support some of the most vulnerable populations in Toronto.

“I hope that post-COVID we continue to bridge the gap between hospitals and communities,” shares Dr. Dagher. “There has been this divide in healthcare which has caused a lot of inequities in the system. The community lens is ultimately what helped us all succeed.”

Dr. Marc Dagher (right), Medical Director of COVID-19 Pandemic Programs at Women’s College Hospital, leading teams at a mobile vaccination clinic.

Having a community lens helped WCH tailor the vaccination experience to each area supported. Whether it was through providing multi-language materials and access to staff who could speak local languages, or by accommodating those in the community with accessible operation times (evenings and weekends), WCH and partners met the community where they were at.  Thanks to the pre-existing relationships between the community partners and patients, this initiative was full of trust and mutual respect. 

One of the largest undertakings in this vaccine journey was a series of pop-up clinics in local schools and arenas. Supporting the City of Toronto’s Vaccination Sprint Strategy, WCH partnered with Unison Health & Community Services to provide over 100,000 vaccines since the end of April. Hundreds of staff, physicians and volunteers supported these clinics as the team moved from site to site every few days.

“There was always a tremendous feeling of ‘team’. In the way individuals of all levels listened to each other and respected their insights, it was such a unique and welcoming environment,” shares Michelle Joseph, CEO of Unison Health & Community Services.

When it came down to it, a common goal and the immense efforts of individuals truly made this initiative a success. #TeamWCH and its partners were able to connect with community members, address concerns or hesitation and ultimately further public health. 

L-R: Elaine Goulbourne and Dr. Marc Dagher celebrate the Women’s College Hospital mobile teams reaching the milestone of 100,000 doses administered.

“I would really like to acknowledge every single person who made this vaccine roll-out possible. From IT, to logistics, to volunteers, to the physicians who spent countless hours and weekends supporting this initiative, thank you. You made every moment a positive one,” shares Elaine Goulbourne, Director, Clinical Resources & Performance.

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