Dr. Magbule Doko and her Windsor clinic’s team have made it their mission to get COVID-19 vaccines in arms.
The family physician has gone above and beyond the call of duty over the last several months to hold outdoor pop-up and drive-thru vaccine clinics and to offer walk-in shot availability, as have a few other primary care providers working extra hours to bring the pandemic to an end.
While most of the roughly 60 local physicians administering the jab offer them by appointment only and don’t widely advertise when they have doses available, Doko is vocal on Twitter, inviting anyone in need of a shot to visit her at 2285 Howard Ave. whenever she has a pop-up planned.
This Saturday will be her 18th pop-up clinic, with more than 4,000 doses administered by her team already.
“My whole goal was to get the vaccines out as fast as we can and get people protected,” said Doko, whose team administered 709 doses in a single day last month, a number that rivals the capacity of some local mass vaccination clinics.
After ensuring her own approximately 1,300 patients had been vaccinated — many of them at mass vaccination clinics before primary care providers were given vaccine allotments — “I decided I needed to help. It was almost like a calling.”
Volunteers come out to help her hold the clinics in the parking lot outside her practice, she said. As the lead physician, she runs the show, while her husband, who has a business background, helps to organize the events.
Doko’s administrative staff check people in, and nurses on staff administer vaccines, as do medical students from the Schulich School of Medicine’s Windsor campus where Doko is an adjunct professor. University of Windsor students in the Pre-Medical Society have also volunteered.
The sooner we get people vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to normal
“We just wanted to help our community get vaccinated faster, get those shots into arms,” Doko said. “We had a really enthusiastic team ready to give shots.
“Everybody was happy to do it. Everyone was willing to come those extra hours or stay those long days and give shots. We were all happy when we were doing the vaccine clinics because we knew people were getting vaccinated, getting protected.
“The sooner we get people vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to normal.”
For some primary care providers, offering walk-in vaccine availability has been a necessity. Dr. Vikesh Maraj’s family practice in Olde Riverside has been too inundated with a backlog of calls for routine medical care to schedule COVID-19 vaccine time-slots.
Maraj told the Star he would prefer to have people pre-book their appointments, but that would require hiring another administrator to handle all of those calls. Offering the vaccines on a walk-in basis creates unpredictability, with only a handful of people showing up for a jab one day and a line wrapped around the block another.
“We simply do not have the capacity, from an administrative perspective, to be scheduling (COVID-19 vaccines),” said Maraj, who is also president-elect of the Essex County Medical Society. “If we could schedule, it would make our lives so much easier. Now, when you arrive in the morning, you don’t know what you’re going to get.”
Maraj has offered COVID-19 vaccines on a walk-in basis on multiple occasions so far, administering around 400 doses.
Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health for Windsor and Essex County, estimated about 60 local physicians were offering COVID-19 vaccines and the health unit is working to recruit more family doctors to join in.
Since the region’s five mass vaccination sites are “very resource-intensive” and demand for shots will eventually taper off, he expects they may not be necessary beginning sometime in August. Individuals who want a first or second dose after that will still have access through select primary care providers and pharmacies.
It’s protecting you from dying from COVID
According to data presented by Ahmed on Friday, primary care providers have administered roughly 30,000 doses of the 475,000 given out locally. Public health-based mass vaccination clinics and hospital-based mass vaccination clinics have each given out more than 150,000 doses, and area pharmacies have administered nearly 100,000. The remaining shots were given at long-term care and retirement homes, through mobile delivery sites, and by other means.
The province on Thursday announced it would be reaching out to people not yet vaccinated against COVID-19 with more targeted walk-in, pop-up and mobile clinics as it prepares to shift away from mass vaccination sites, many of which are housed in areas and convention centres that will eventually be getting back to regular business.
Prior to that announcement, Doko already had several more pop-up clinics planned. On Friday, her team offered the jab at the Howard Avenue clinic from 5 to 8 p.m. in an effort to give better access to those who typically work during the day.
Doko’s team will run another on Saturday from noon until 6 p.m. in downtown Windsor, a COVID-19 hotspot neighbourhood with the lowest first dose coverage rate in the region (51.2 per cent). That pop-up will take place at a parking lot at 819 Ouellette Ave. with no appointment necessary.
“It’s protecting you from going to the hospital,” she said. “It’s protecting you from dying from COVID. Get the vaccine, don’t be hesitant, and come out to one of our pop-ups if you want to come and get it done.”