Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario’s Peel Region has been one of Canada’s worst COVID-19 hotspots. At the centre of this hard-hit region is the University of Toronto Mississauga. In the year since the virus suspended business as usual on campus, the university leveraged its resources and connections to contribute to the pandemic response: students, staff and faculty members donated supplies, expertise and time to relief efforts while researchers worked on social and economic interventions, policy analysis and medical treatments. Now, the university is helping to get COVID-19 vaccines into local residents’ arms.
U of T Mississauga is home to the first mass vaccination clinic in the city. The university and its partners – Trillium Health Partners hospital and Peel Public Health – worked seven days a week for close to a month to transform the 73,000-square-foot Recreation, Athletics and Wellness Centre into a site with adequate vaccine storage and security, sanitation protocols, high standards for environmental health and safety, a solid plan for managing traffic, parking and public transportation, and a communications plan. THP supplies medical and administrative staff while U of T Mississauga staffs security, parking, communications, facilities and project management. A spokesperson for U of T Mississauga noted that the province’s Ministry of Health will reimburse the costs incurred by the institution.
The clinic officially opened on March 1 with Ontario Premier Doug Ford, several MPPs, retired general Rick Hillier (then head of the province’s vaccine task force) and local community leaders in attendance. Within its first four weeks of operation, the clinic administered more than 10,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the spokesperson, the university got involved in the project to help “combat the pandemic; to prioritize equitable health and well-being; and to support the region’s safety, strength, and success.” Other universities across the country have taken on similar missions. As of late March, mass vaccination clinics had opened at the University of British Columbia, Université Laval, the University of Saskatchewan, Université de Montréal, the University of Guelph, Ontario Tech University, the University of Victoria, Wilfrid Laurier University Brantford and Brock University.