2021 News

VHA THRU team plays critical role in Team Toronto’s Home Stretch Vaccine Push

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By VHA
VHA's Tactical Healthcare Response Unit (THRU) team stand socially distanced

As part of Team Toronto, VHA Home HealthCare’s (VHA) Tactical HealthCare Response Unit (THRU) is running a new fixed COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto’s Rexdale neighbourhood to target an area of the city in greatest need of protection.

The clinic opened on June 23 at the Albion Arena in partnership with University Health Network, City of Toronto and Rexdale Community Health Centre.

On July 10, Toronto Mayor John Tory and the City of Toronto launched the Home Stretch Vaccine Push in the northwest area of the city as part of Team Toronto’s efforts to increase vaccine uptake across neighbourhoods with low vaccination rates. The goal of the Home Stretch Vaccine Push is to connect with people on the ground, in their communities and remove the barriers to accessing vaccines.

The northwest area of Toronto, where the Albion Arena clinic is located has one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 vaccination in Toronto and has experienced higher rates of COVID-19 infection than the provincial average throughout the pandemic.

“I’m hopeful that the Team Toronto Home Stretch Vaccine Push will close a gap in access to the COVID-19 vaccine for some residents in the northwest portion of the city. Strong neighbourhood-level data has led us to create this strategy and I’m looking forward to seeing the outcome, once our health and community partners come together in this push starting tomorrow. We’ve come to a critical point in our efforts to end this pandemic in Toronto and I believe that a unifying, community-based approach that builds upon our current successful vaccination efforts is what will lead us to success,” said Mayor Tory in a statement announcing the initiative.

“I’m really glad to see that most Torontonians have taken the opportunity to begin the COVID-19 vaccination process. But until we remove barriers for all Torontonians to make an informed decision, we as a health system haven’t done our job. VHA’s THRU is proud to be part of this important work in the Rexdale community to ensure everyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccine can easily access both first and second doses in their community,” said VHA’s Susan Chang, Director, Strategic Transformations and Partnerships.

In response to the changing needs of Ontario’s healthcare system and the urgency of the provincial vaccine rollout in the wake of a third wave, Susan  assembled THRU, a strategic team of experienced nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and non-clinical staff who can urgently respond to community health needs and challenges anywhere in the Greater Toronto Area.

Toronto Mayor John Tory and Councillors Joe Cressy and Michael Ford at the Alion Arena clinic with VHA's Susan Chang and Courtney Bean
Toronto Mayor John Tory (centre) and Councillors Joe Cressy (left) and Michael Ford (right) with VHA leaders Courtney Bean (front-left) and Susan Chang (front-right)

  To date, THRU has proven themselves to be an innovative resource from the local homecare sector as a “clinic-in-a-box” service to be leveraged by the healthcare system during this pandemic.  THRU has creatively operationalized pop-up vaccine clinics in many different locations across Toronto, including Toronto Community Housing buildings, Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), park, school, bus, etc.  In addition to COVID, THRU is excited to evolve into a team that continues to help local communities fight other urgent health needs moving forward.      

“I love working as part of THRU because we are able to go directly into communities and provide information and vaccines to individuals in their own neighbourhood. We’re able to reach those who may not have access otherwise,” said David Yam, Resource Pharmacist Lead on VHA’s THRU.  

Lynn Sheppard of VHA's Tactical Healthcare Response Unit (THRU) team
Lynn Sheppard, THRU Clinical Nursing Lead

THRU’s Lynn Sheppard, a team member at the Albion Arena clinic who has also been part of mobile vaccine teams as a Clinical Nursing Lead, has taken note of the team’s success throughout the vaccine rollout.
“I’ve had the opportunity to be part of vaccination efforts all over the city and have heard from individuals from many cultures and backgrounds who have been falling through the cracks and don’t have family support or a primary physician to help them through the process of seeking a COVID-19 vaccine. What THRU is doing is really exciting. We’re able to provide support for those individuals by bringing the vaccine to them and provide health teaching resources for communities,” said Lynn

The new fixed clinic is located at the Albion Arena at 1501 Albion Road. The clinic is currently offering walk in appointments for first doses for all individuals 12 years of age or older from any area. Second doses are available to those living in Delta variant hotspots, which includes the nearby M9W, M9V and M9R postal codes as well as M1B, M1G, M1J, M1R, M1S, M2R, M3J, M3K, M3L, M3M, M3N, M4A, M4H, M6M, M6N, M9L, M9M, and M9P. Proof of age and proof of workplace, school or residence located in these postal codes are required. For the latest clinic hours and postal code availability, please refer to Rexdale Community Health Centre.