It appears food and vaccines go well together. That’s the response from organizers of the community BBQ on Thursday at Steinbach Community Outreach where the public was invited for supper and to learn more about the vaccinations to protect against Covid-19.

Pharmacist Hans Epp was on hand to administer vaccinations to anyone who wanted one.

“It went fantastic,” he says. “I think we all were extremely encouraged with the people that showed up, whether they were there for vaccinations or not. This was a unique event because it tied a bit of food into the mix. It was almost like going home for your vaccination.”

There were chairs and tables set up in the parking lot at 345 Loewen Boulevard and a bouncy castle nearby. Sounds of children laughing and adults visiting, the aroma of burgers being grilled, and smiles on every face. The scene certainly reflected a family gathering atmosphere instead of a vaccination clinic where Epp administered 29 doses of the vaccine. More than 60 percent of those were first-dose vaccinations. 

The vaccine pop-up clinic was set-up in the parking lot off of Loewen Boulevard

Kerry Bogaard received her first dose, and she was so thankful to get it done and to reassure others that it was a good experience.

“I’m very pleased that I took that first step because I’m a procrastinator,” she says. “I just feel great that I actually did it. I did it. For anyone that is hesitating to get inoculated, I didn’t even know that it happened, and it was over with.”

The vaccination itself only takes a fraction of a second and each person is monitored for a few minutes to watch for any possible negative reaction. Bogaard is prepared to experience some discomfort such as a sore arm or fatigue and she says that won’t last long.

Bogaard says it was great to have an opportunity to walk up instead of going on a waiting list or making an appointment. She also found comfort in knowing that Hans Epp was going to be there because he is someone she knows and trusts.

Epp appreciates the relationships he has been able to make with many people, whether it be professionally or otherwise. He is quick to point out that each person has the responsibility to make their own decisions and sometimes, it’s a difficult decision.

“I have the easy job,” he says. “They're the ones making the decision to come there. And there were people I recognized and people I didn’t. It was a privilege and a joy to provide the shots to those that were there (on Thursday).”

A grant was provided to Steinbach Community Outreach to coordinate the event. Office Manager Charlene Kroeker says the BBQ was a fantastic success and expresses appreciation to everyone who helped put it on, including Southern Health, Shopper’s Drug Mart, KidZone, and Gregg Penner.

She believes there was a need for such an event to help put people at ease and support them through every aspect of getting a vaccination. There was a team of professionals on hand to answer questions and volunteers were there to help anyone who needed support with filling out the vaccination consent form.

“We’re finding that a lot of the people we know, they ‘re in-the-moment decision-makers," Kroeker explains. "They don’t want a lot of fuss and bother; they don’t want to have to book an appointment and then have two weeks in the meantime to worry about it. It increases their anxiety. Super important, I think, that they can walk up, feel comfortable going in. They’re comfortable with Hans because they know him and they’re comfortable getting their vaccine that way.”

Another aspect that often creates anxiety is filling out forms, even the basic consent forms which contain mostly questions that can be answered with “Yes” or “No”. Kroeker’s team was prepared to help everyone who needed support with the paperwork.

The event was well-planned and there was great attention to every detail, says Epp. He adds, “This was probably one of the most full-filling times I’ve experienced injecting vaccines.”

There will be another walk-up clinic in Steinbach on Tuesday from 3:30 pm to 6:00 pm at 430 Third Street where Pfizer and Moderna will be available.

Volunteers prepare food for attendees