If you haven’t heard of them yet, Vaccine Hunters Canada is a group of volunteers who’ve come together to make sure no vaccine goes to waste.
The group posts available shots on social media for cities and provinces across the country.
The City of Toronto is jumping on the bandwagon, partnering up with them, to help residents quickly find available vaccine appointments at city-run clinics. Toronto becomes the first municipality in the country to partner with the volunteer organization.
At the end of each day, the city says it will provide Vaccine Hunters with clinic appointment availability for the next day for its nine city-run clinics.
“This is a huge, all hands-on deck effort, and Vaccine Hunters Canada have stepped up to help people get vaccinated and navigate the different registration systems,” says Mayor John Tory. “We are excited to work with Vaccine Hunters to help get more people vaccinated.”
The City is partnering with @VaxHuntersCan to help Torontonians identify available next-day appointments at City-run clinics.
The vaccine rollout is an all hands-on deck effort.
— John Tory (@JohnTory) April 28, 2021
The city says collaborating with Vaccine Hunters is just one more way to help residents in securing an appointment for as early as the next day.
Joshua Kalpin, one of the “core members” of the Vaccine Hunters Canada team, said in a statement that the group is honoured to work with the city.
“This is a new phase for our organization, and we are excited to increase our efforts to collaborate with public health units across the province,” he said.
In an earlier interview with The Canadian Press, Kalpin said a group of volunteers combs the websites and social media accounts of local public health units to centralize information about vaccine eligibility and appointments.
“There’s just a lot of different websites and each public health unit has a different strategy, which I think makes sense considering Canada is an incredibly large country and an incredibly diverse country,” he said.
“…And it can be a bit confusing, unfortunately, because there’s all these different things.”
He said the group is driven by a deep sense of community. Vaccinations for the city-run clinics are by appointment only.
Individuals can book through the online provincial portal.
“It’s our duty as Canadians to reach out to our family, our friends, our neighbors, or everyone else in our community and help them get their vaccine done,” Kalpin said.
Ontario’s government has faced sharp criticism for what many describe as a confusing vaccine booking system with a dearth of centralized information.
While the province has a website that allows people to book vaccine appointments in many public health units, some regions have opted to use their own booking systems.
Further, those who are only eligible for the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot must book appointments directly with pharmacies administering that vaccine, not through the provincial booking system.
And though the province has opened up vaccine eligibility to people aged 18 to 44 who live in COVID-19 hot-spot neighbourhoods, it doesn’t offer them centralized online booking.
Instead, the provincial website tells those people that “mobile and pop-up clinics will be promoted locally by community partners and public health units, starting in Peel and Toronto.”
The work of Vaccine Hunters Canada, meanwhile, has been praised by the likes of the nation’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam.
The City of Toronto says it’s not spending any money on its “partnership” with the volunteer-run group.
With files from The Canadian Press