Waterloo Region is hoping a major weekend COVID-19 vaccination push will end up being one of its most successful yet.
The Region has been testing a new vaccination set-up at Bingemans in Kitchener this week.
Called the 'Hockey Hub' model, the goal is to get people in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible.
"You walk into the room, there's a bunch of rows of chairs, you sit in a chair, and then the nurse or the physician vaccinator goes up one row and down another," said University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy professor Kelly Grindrod. "And after you've had your vaccine you sit in your chair for 15 minutes and then you're free to go."
The model was designed and originally used in the Grey Bruce Health Unit area and Bruce Power has helped guide our region to set up our own version of it.
"We've been doing it the past couple of days," said Grindrod. "It's pretty cool to go in and see how it's working. It's very fast, whole families can come in together and be out pretty quickly so it's a pretty neat experience."
Grindrod says the weekend clinic is staffed to provide 20,000 doses this weekend alone but the concern is they may not actually see 20,000 people. She says if you still need a first dose all you have to do is walk in and they'll get you one. Second doses are now available to walk-ins as well.
Earlier this week, Waterloo Region announced it was ready to make the move to Step Two of the province's reopening roadmap based on a recent spike in local vaccination rates and tied to a stabilization or improvement in other key indicators like case counts, hospitalizations, and outbreaks.
Despite this, the Region says it's too early to hit a vaccination plateau.
"I sure hope not because we're still a ways away from where we need to be when we plateau," Grindrod said. "What I'm seeing in clinic, for example, is lots of second doses but I'm still getting lots of first doses coming in when I'm vaccinating."
She says there are many reasons as to why someone who wants a vaccine still hasn't had one from being busy with kids in school, busy with work, or even out of work but returning in Step Three and wanting to be vaccinated before that happens.
Grindrod says people who were hesitant based on the level of research may also now be feeling more comfortable after seeing numerous friends and family members get vaccinated to successful results.
"So we really want to keep pushing those first doses," she said. "Now is the time, with [the Delta variant], now is the time. If you've been wondering, come on in, we'll get a vaccine."
But it doesn't stop at one, again, with the Delta variant first identified in India now predominant here in Waterloo Region we know it's the second dose that's most effective and we also know our overall vaccination rate still isn't as high as we'd like.
"We really need to be well above 80 per cent, closer to 90 per cent," Grindrod said. "The thing about these really highly contagious variants is you need more people to be vaccinated."
"We're heading into what we would call more of an endemic period where we're going to live with COVID for quite some time so, for a lot of people they think of their risk right now as, 'okay, well, if I can just wait and not get COVID while the risk is high during the pandemic then the pandemic will pass and the risk will pass'," she said. "But what we actually expect is that everybody who chooses to not get the vaccine will likely get infected with COVID at some point."
Grindrod says reaching those higher vaccination thresholds would help minimize the effect of that endemic period.
"And, actually, what we're really worried about is a big wave coming late summer or early-fall," she said. "So we're trying to get ahead of that as well."