When pharmacies in Meadow Lake begin to offer the COVID-19 vaccine, those scheduled to receive the shot will have an easier time coming and going from their respective appointments.

During city council’s regular meeting Monday (March 22), a motion was carried allowing any facility in the downtown area providing COVID-19 vaccines to the public to designate one parking stall for dedicated COVID-19 vaccine recipients. The parking stalls would come with a 20-minute time limit and will only remain in place for the duration of the mass public vaccination effort, and only until Dec. 31 at the latest. The participating businesses will also be responsible for installing the appropriate signage.

“We have received a letter from a local pharmacy requesting council to allow them to establish a dedicated express parking stall for use during the planned COVID-19 vaccination rollout,” explained city manager Diana Burton in her official recommendation to council. “Administration reached out to the other two pharmacies in the downtown area and they echoed support for this idea.”

The letter in question came from Geoff Barton of The Medicine Shoppe.

“The efficiency this vaccination program requires means we will need to file patients in and out in an orderly manner,” Barton noted. “Having one ‘express’ parking spot will help with this.”

Barton also said he expects the vaccination program to begin some time in April and last the entirety of 2021.

Burton, meanwhile, expressed her support for the request.

“Administration fully supports this request and believes it should be expanded to include any facility that will be supplying COVID-19 vaccines to the public and also faces potential parking challenges,” she said.

The motion to approve the designated parking stalls was made by councillor Conrad Read and seconded by councillor Richard Levesque.

“When it comes to the signs, I want to make sure they are uniform,” Read said. “I want them to be the same size, the same colour and to have the same words… I want it to be like a handicap zone where everybody knows what it is for.”

Burton said the city could likely provide the businesses with a sign template they could use.

“Also, is there any way of enforcing the 20-minute time limit?” Read wondered.

Burton said enforcement will be difficult.

“The hope is the signs and a little bit of enforcement will help, but when we discussed it with the pharmacies on Centre Street, they said regardless of what level of enforcement we can do, they still requested (the time limit),” she said.

Burton also said there’s likely nothing in the city’s traffic bylaw to allow for the ticketing of someone who parks in these spots in excess of 20 minutes.

“I assume they’re going to giving more than one vaccine in 20 minutes, but we’re accommodating their request and it makes sense,” stated councillor Tom Harrison.

by Phil Ambroziak