Scenes from the epic, 32-hour Doses After Dark overnight vaccine clinic in Peel

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“I guess, in a pandemic, this is what you call nightlife”: Scenes from the epic, 32-hour Doses After Dark overnight vaccine clinic in Peel

This past weekend, Peel Region hosted Canada’s first overnight vaccination clinic. On Saturday night, hundreds drove to the International Centre minutes away from Toronto’s very quiet Pearson Airport to participate in what one person described as “a vaccine rave.” Music blasted from the speakers outside and inside. Television screens flashed live updates on how many doses had been administered. And each person left the clinic with some swag: a T-shirt that said “This is our shot,” Rocky Mountain chocolate, Tim Horton’s coffee or a goodie bag from the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives. Over the course of 32 hours, there were guest appearances from Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie and Premier Doug Ford. And the region’s chief medical officer of health, Lawrence Loh, scrubbed in to personally vaccinate some of the residents he serves.

When Loh drove into the parking lot that night, he said, he was in awe of the sheer number of cars and people. Finding parking close to the entrance was seemingly impossible. The queue of people started from the door and went on for at least a kilometre around the entire building. Loh just sat in his car and watched a purple and orange sun set on the scene. “I was overcome with a sense of hope and optimism,” he said. “I just had to absorb it all.”

The clinic was designed to get young people and shift workers and those that work off jobs at all hours. Loh spoke to dozens of companies in the region’s logistics and manufacturing hub requesting that they encourage their workers to come to the clinic. The vaccine ended up administering close to 5,000 doses. Toronto Life visited the clinic on Saturday night from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.. Here’s who we met:

David Caban, 27

Sous chef at Miku

“I was working today. My shift ended a little late, around 9:45 p.m., because I was making sure everyone was following all the Covid-19 protocols. I rushed here soon after that to make it for my 10:30 p.m. appointment. The timing worked out. Someone told me that vaccinations are now open for restaurant workers too. I’m fortunate because I work five days a week. I’m doing the one thing that I love. The pandemic has made cooking a little less fun but we all understand. We’re stricter and very, very diligent about cleaning properly and using sanitizers and chemicals. Safety first: if one of us goes down, it’s a lot more work for the rest of us.”

Gurjant Singh, 28

Technician

“I live in Brampton but I’m a technician in a food-packing warehouse in Orangeville. We make things like dipping sauce cups and feta cheese packets and stuff for Home Depot. Work is okay: they’ve reduced staff and clean our lunch rooms and work stations more. I have a busy schedule at work during the day so getting a vaccine was not possible then. This time and this clinic was near me, so I just came. My family is in India; they’re okay because they’re not in a high-Covid area. They are glad I’m safe being so far away. They’re happy I’m getting vaccinated today.”

Riona Fross, 19

Nursing student at George Brown College

“My mom is a personal support worker and she’s vaccinated. Dad’s an electrician and he’s getting vaccinated with me. We live right down the road, so we booked as soon as this clinic was announced. It was so close to home. I started my first-year of university last year, and it’s so hard. The virtual classes are not easy. Some days, I just have a mental breakdown sitting at the computer. You don’t get the practical experience. I’m studying nursing because I love helping people. The pandemic has shown just how important it is. All of a sudden, nurses became heroes. That’s pretty cool.”

Edwin Obenieta, 61, and Beverly Camara, 40, with their kids, Edverwin and Erlwin

HVAC worker and warehouse worker

Beverly: “We’re common-law partners. I work the midnight shift at a merchandise warehouse for Aritzia, and he works in a heating and cooling systems factory during the day. I take the bus to work—it’s a 25-minute ride. We both happened to have today off, so we decided to book vaccine appointments. We had to bring the kids because there’s no one else to take care of them. Our families are in the Philippines. They’re all vaccinated. Once we get ours we can go back and see them. We haven’t been since 2018.”

Megan Singh, 21, and Jasmin Singh, 23

Student and health care worker

Megan: “It’s my 21st birthday today so I thought this would be a good night out for a pandemic celebration. Doses After Dark sounded fun, and they said they would have surprises. My appointment was at 11:45 pm so my birthday is technically over but I’m still excited. I’m just finishing off my fourth year at Western University and the virtual/live Zoom structure has been an adjustment, but I’m making it work.”

Jasmin: “I graduated last year from Guelph-Humber right as everything shut down. It’s been really hard to find a job in social services. Plus, I have an autoimmune disease and a collapsed lung. I got lucky and got a job with Peel Public Health. I help with their case and contact management. It’s a lot of shift work—I basically talk to people who test positive. I’ve spoken to so many essential workers. My most memorable conversation was with a grandmother who called me to ask if she could visit her newborn granddaughter. It reminded me why I studied social services.”

Gautam Walia, 30

Truck driver

“I drive a truck and deliver things to all the grocery stores: Walmart, Costco, all of them. I work the night shift. I start at 6 p.m. and end at 4 or 5 a.m. I start in Brampton and sometimes end up as far as Belleville. I took the day off to get vaccinated so I could rest after and make sure I felt okay. This clinic seemed safe because they opened late and it stated clearly that we would all get Pfizer or Moderna. I didn’t expect so many people to be here so late at night. It’s good to see, but I’ve been waiting for a while and I had an appointment. Hopefully, this will inspire my fellow drivers in the yard to also get vaccinated.”

Harjinder Singh, 58

Shopkeeper

“I run a convenience store, a Hasty Market, in Bramalea. I’ve had it for five years. I barely have any time in the day. For seven days a week I’m at my shop. I put on my mask and my shield and take all the precautions for myself and my customers. Business has been steady. Everyone just talks about the virus and vaccines now. That’s how I learned about this overnight clinic. I booked an appointment. I feel lucky.”

Abeer Hassan, 34

Accountant for Pearson Airport

“I’m the first member of my family to get vaccinated. I have four older brothers and elderly parents who are hesitant. I’m hoping my vaccination will push them to get it too. I actually had an appointment for next week but when this clinic opened I decided to try my luck. The sooner you get it the better, right? My husband is getting it next week too. I’ve lived in Mississauga for 10 years and I feel fortunate. India scares me. There have been deaths among my relatives. Several are getting vaccinated next week. I’m glad.”

Reyhab Patel, 24, and Sana Patel, 29

Retail worker and student

Reyhab: “I have asthma, and my dad is in his 70s and I work at a Sephora on Bloor Street. I really wanted the vaccine. I still have to go to work for curbside deliveries once a week, so the sooner I could get a vaccine the better. Every week, I see customers who don’t wear masks. I literally watch the anti-mask protests go by the store. I actually felt sick earlier in the week but I tested negative.”

Sana: “I’m back home for Eid from Ottawa, where I’m doing my PhD. This clinic is so close to our house we decided to just book ourselves. I work for a Canada Post depot in a Shoppers Drug Mart in Ottawa two days every week. We’ve had a few positive cases, but we’ve been told not to worry about it. When I’m at work, I literally watch people get vaccinated but I couldn’t get one. So this worked out.”

Maulan Brown, 43

IT professional
“I’ve been lucky to work from home but I really want to be able to get out of my house. So you have to do what you have to do. My appointment is at midnight exactly. I assumed it would be empty but this line is so long. I just want to go back to the gym and work normal hours again. I guess in a pandemic, this is what we call a nightlife.”