Breaking down barriers: Cumberland Network launched COVID-19 vaccine clinics in six rural communities

April Leblanc-Meldrum, licensed practical nurse (LPN) for South Cumberland’s rural practice. SUBMITTED
April Leblanc-Meldrum, licensed practical nurse (LPN) for South Cumberland’s rural practice. SUBMITTED

Nova Scotia Health’s Northern Zone spans Colchester-East Hants, Cumberland and Pictou areas. In January, the Cumberland Network Primary Health Care team launched six COVID-19 vaccine clinics to ensure the rural areas of Advocate Harbour, Parrsboro, River Hebert, Springhill, Pugwash and Tatamagouche had access to the booster.

These six vaccine clinics were set up in record time and ran for four weeks. Each clinic was managed by one administration professional and either a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN).

“We moved quickly and successfully launched our clinics due to our staff in these communities,” said Maryanne Jackson, Health Services Manager. “Our staff in these communities were making phone calls to residents, visiting businesses, gas stations and schools to get the word out and fill vaccine appointments.”

April Leblanc-Meldrum, LPN for South Cumberland’s rural practice, was one of those employees. Based in Parrsboro, Leblanc-Meldrum worked at three of the six clinics, including Parrsboro, Advocate Harbour and River Hebert.

“These rural vaccine clinics have been a great project and we have gotten seniors out to get their shot,” said Leblanc-Meldrum. “All of the communities have been grateful for us being there. Most residents I vaccinated received their booster. However, there were some who were starting their vaccine journey – not because they did not want to get the vaccine initially, but because of barriers of getting to an urban clinic, such as travel and socioeconomic status.”

Advocate and Area Primary Health Care Clinic

“These clinics emerged from our concern about the access to vaccines people had in our rural areas,” said Irene Chevarie, Health Services Lead. “For example, it can be a long trip for a senior to travel from a place like Advocate Harbour to a community like Amherst, which is a 90-minute commute each way. We try to advocate for our rural areas to make sure those residents get the same health care and access to vaccines as Nova Scotians living in urban areas.”

Advocate Harbour, a peaceful coastal community did not have a local pharmacy that provided the COVID-19 vaccine to residents.

“Our staff in rural areas think about the patient first and how they can do best for their patients,” said Jackson. “And it shows.”

Thank you to all who were involved in the launch of the six COVID-19 vaccine clinics in Cumberland and Colchester counties.