VANCOUVER -- Concerns are being raised about barriers faced by a vulnerable population in Vancouver when it comes to getting their COVID-19 vaccine.

Community advocates fear elderly people living in Chinatown and the surrounding area may end up missing out if they aren’t able to easily make an appointment, or get to a clinic.

Michael Tan with the Vancouver Chinatown Legacy Stewardship Group said seniors face barriers when it comes to language, technology and mobility, and added the closest clinic is in Olympic Village at Creekside Community Centre.

“For many of these seniors that have mobility issues, they’re frail, they’re on these little walkers. It might as well be on the moon,” he said. “We’re very worried about them not receiving their vaccinations in a timely and safe way.”

Chinatown community organizer Nick Yung said he has heard similar concerns expressed by those liasing with seniors in the area.

“I’ve heard so much from other service workers and social workers and organizers that they hear feedback from seniors that they dont know how to get there,” Yung said. “Most of them don’t speak English...getting a vaccination is already a lot more challenging for them.”

When people call the Vancouver Coastal Health phone line to book appointments, the initial message outlining eligibility is only in English, with no other language prompts available.

Tan said he and others have been calling on Vancouver Coastal Health to provide vaccinations in the community, either at individual buildings or at a local site.

“It’s frustrating that yet again these racialized communities are overlooked in terms of accessibility for vaccinations,” Tan said. “In this very small neighbourhood, there’s actually about at least 2,000 seniors, many of which are very much eligible for the vaccinations.”

In an email to CTV News, Vancouver Coastal Health did not directly address the request for a neighbourhood clinic, but said interpreters are available through the phone line, and resources are being provided in other languages and shared in the community and online.

“Once we enter Phase 3 of B.C.’s Immunization Plan and open mass vaccination clinics, we will be integrating virtual interpreters into the services we offer, which will support 240 languages,” the health authority said. “We have staff and volunteers at most vaccination clinics who speak key languages of the community and are making every effort to ensure a positive experience for seniors.”

The health authority added   two webinars  are planned, one on March 20 in Cantonese, and one on March 27 in Mandarin. Both will feature a presentation from an emergency room doctor at Vancouver General Hospital, “to encourage eligible seniors to book an appointment for a vaccine”.

Tan said there are discussions about having a one-day pop-up clinic that could accommodate up to 300 people, but he’s still hoping for a permanent vaccination site in the neighbourhood to help ensure no one will be missed.