Students wait in line for hours at McGill’s first on-campus vaccination clinic

Amidst the implementation of Quebec’s vaccine passport, McGill announced that a vaccination clinic in Redpath Hall would offer first and second doses and register vaccines received outside of Quebec on Sept. 3. The event was heavily advertised by email and across McGill’s various social media accounts, but many attendees felt it was mismanaged. The clinic, which was a stand-alone event and did not require registration, was overwhelmed by the turnout from its start. Though the clinic was meant to remain from 1 p.m. until 7 p.m., it closed after only two and a half hours due to short supply. McGill has since stated that future clinics will be registration-only.

Dory Sampson, U3 Arts, who went to the clinic with the hope of getting help fixing her malfunctioning vaccine passport, remembered arriving early to a long line and then leaving without getting the help she needed. 

“My roommate and I showed up an hour early and there was already a line,” Sampson said. “After waiting in line for three and a half hours, we were told to go to a different location […] which, we had found out through Facebook, had been rejecting people […] because they were all booked up and under-staffed as well.”

Sampson said she had expected the event to be adequately staffed and better managed, given how much publicity the clinic had received from the university.

“The fact that they advertised it on their Instagram, with a countdown timer, and then the line was not moving at all was kind of unacceptable,” Sampson said.

Amir Shah, U3 Science, attended the clinic in hopes of registering his out-of-province vaccines, but eventually left the line after realizing he would not be helped. Shah feels the university should have foreseen the logistical issues, given its large international student population—including many who do not have access to Canada’s list of approved vaccines. According to the International Student Services (ISS), McGill has over 10,000 international students who make up nearly 30 per cent of the overall student body.

“If those [international student numbers] are the numbers you are proud of, then you also need to make sure you have the resources to work with those numbers,” Shah said. “I really was expecting McGill to have started this kind of program for vaccinating students and registering students’ vaccinations from before orientation so that […] as students trickled in from all around the world […] they would have slowly gotten their vaccinations and registrations done.”

Shah, like Sampson, did not receive the service the university had advertised. Shah pointed out that the clinic’s shortcomings could pose a challenge for those new to Montreal who may not know how to access local resources. 

“I walked out of the line after a while,” Shah said. “I got an appointment for next week on Wednesday at a clinic to register my vaccine, and I know a lot of friends who did that as well. It is okay for someone [like me] who has been in Montreal and who knows places around, but [I feel for] new students.”

In an email to The McGill Tribune, David Juncker, professor and chair of the department of biomedical engineering at McGill, emphasized the importance of offering vaccination clinics on campus, adding that the university should be taking more steps to effectively manage COVID-19.

“Lacking a vaccination mandate, [McGill’s] encouraging people to vaccinate via pop-up clinics is most certainly recommended,” Juncker wrote. “The university should also consider rapid testing, as is now used in Waterloo and at UBC.”

The administration stated that they are looking into the potential for more on-campus vaccination clinics, and encouraged students to take advantage of walk-in clinics in Montreal. 

“The university is working with public health authorities to explore options for future vaccination clinics,” Frédérique Mazerolle wrote in an email to the Tribune.  “In the meantime, […] there are a number of walk-in clinics set up for the first and the second dose depending on vaccine availability. They can also book vaccination times on the Clic Santé website.”

Since providing the Tribune with this statement, McGill has announced it will hold a vaccine registration clinic from Sept. 14 – Sept. 17.

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