NORTH BAY -- Battling COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and misinformation has been a major problem for the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit since mass immunization began.

In an attempt to reach everyone who is not vaccinated in the health unit's district, staff are beginning to shift gears from mass vaccination clinics to walk-in clinics.

The health unit is in week two of these walk-in opportunities and held another walk-in clinic Thursday afternoon at Memorial Gardens.

"In response to a drop in vaccine bookings at our clinics, we are refocusing our efforts to a more targeted approach," said Andrea McLellan, the health unit's director of COVID-19 immunization strategy.

This targeted approach is meant for individuals who face barriers to get the vaccine and for those facing vaccine hesitancy.

"Our walk-ins have been quite successful," said McLellan. "At our Memorial Gardens clinics, roughly 150 people per clinic have been able to walk in and receive their vaccine.”

Despite the efforts, about 24 per cent of the population in the health unit district are unvaccinated. While a large portion of that population are young adults waiting for their dose, it also includes people who choose not to get the shot, or who have been hoodwinked by false information.

"These vaccines are so effective against serious illness and hospitalization and death," said Dr. Jim Chirico, the health unit's medical officer of health. "When making decisions and looking for information, go to credible sites from trusted organizations. That is the best way to get information you need."

More than 76 per cent of people 12 years of age and older have their first dose of the vaccine while 62 per cent of eligible residents are fully vaccinated.

In response to a drop in booked appointments, the health unit has cancelled the following clinics:

- July 26 at Memorial Gardens in North Bay

- July 27 at Memorial Gardens in North Bay

- July 27 at Bobby Orr Community Centre in Parry Sound

In addition, the COVID-19 vaccine clinic scheduled for July 23 at the West Nipissing Community Centre will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., rather than 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. as originally scheduled. Walk-ins will be accepted from 10 a.m. to noon.