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Taxi drivers’ vaccines: Mission Accomplished

After a marathon run of media appearances, interviews and daily tweets imploring Ontario health officials to prioritize Taxi drivers for the COVID vaccine, Beck Taxi’s Kristine Hubbard can wind up her advocacy campaign with a feeling of accomplishment.

“I can say that everyone now qualifies and everyone who was looking for vaccine is done or has an appointment,” says Hubbard, whose persistent and heart-felt pleas for help on behalf of all Taxi drivers eventually caught the attention of the manager of the Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Healthcare (CCRIH).

CCRIH’s manager contacted Hubbard and said “I have a spreadsheet with 20 appointments which have not been filled. Send your drivers to us.” Beck did, and in batches of 15, 20 or 40, drivers made appointments and got vaccines.

“The way that the team at the Canadian Center for Immigrant & Refugee Healthcare stepped up for Beck drivers has been the greatest gift. They vaccinated 200 Beck drivers, because they are taxi drivers,” Hubbard says. “I booked 150 of those appointments personally. The relief and joy expressed by these drivers is something I’ll never forget. Taxi drivers were abandoned by the Province and by the City of Toronto: not even a mask was provided. It was regular people who supported each other, and that’s the best part.”

Simultaneously, the age requirement to make appointments through Ontario’s online appointment system was dropping so that more drivers and office staff were able to secure appointments through that system.

Beck Taxi’s Kristine Hubbard conducted a marathon campaign of media interviews in an attempt to persuade Ontario to prioritize Taxi drivers for COVID vaccines.

“As an employer, your responsibility is to ensure you are doing everything you can to protect workers. Giving them paid time to get vaccinated and navigating sometimes confusing booking tools to ease the stress of making appointments is your responsibility.

“As for drivers, these are small business owners who were excluded from small business grants and PPE programs. We had to do everything we can to support them. It’s brought us all closer together and I’ll never forget this time.

“There are no words to describe not only my relief but my sincere pride in the people I work with like Julia Norris, our HR Manager, who personally booked dozens of appointments for our essential dispatch workers.”

As described on the CCRIH website, “CCRIHC was the first volunteer medical clinic in Canada dedicated to refugees and immigrants. In 1999, a borrowed church basement in a Toronto suburb became home to a new and innovative kind of refugee and immigrant health centre. A clinic operated by a handful of volunteer doctors, nurses and community members began providing free healthcare to newcomers to Canada who found it difficult, often impossible to obtain the medical treatment they needed.”