EDMONTON -- A sensory COVID-19 vaccination site opened in Spruce Grove at the end of April.

The clinic is one of two in the province that caters to Albertans who require a more controlled setting when getting immunized.

The facility runs vaccination clinics on Wednesdays and operates on a referral basis through 811.

“In that setting we’re really able to reduce that environmental stimulus,” said Megan McDonald, the operations manager for Public Health at Westview, Spruce Grove, and Evansburg.

We have dimmed lights, we really reduce the number of people that are in the site at any given time so there’s no other services running at that same period.”

Health Link contacts families directly to really understand their challenges and supports it can provide.

“Autism is one we see quite often,” McDonald said.

“We’ve seen clients with all sorts of diagnoses so individuals with Down syndrome, panic disorders and severe needle phobia.”

In order to avoid a sensory overload, McDonald said they encourage clients to bring along individual items that may aid them through the experience, such as headphones, cellphones or even a weighted blanket.


Catharine Dietzmann is a family support coordinator for Autism Edmonton. Two of her four children have been diagnosed with autism, including her 17-year-old son.

“He’s quite on the high functioning end,” she said. “I know we don’t like to use those labels, but significantly less challenges to the naked eye.

“But when it comes to needles, his autism shines through, and he really gave me a lot of pushback. But, he knows that we need to do this so we can help everyone get to that herd immunity and get back to normal.”

Catharine Dietzmann family

Courtesy: Catharine Dietzmann

Dietzmann had to walk her son through all the steps before booking his appointment, explaining where he’s going, what’s going to happen, who’s going to be there and how it’s all going to work.

“I do find a lot of overlap between children just in general and those with autism just trying to manage that anxiety, trying to explain to them what’s going to happen. They all have a big fear of needles autistic, or not,” she added.

Dietzmann told CTV News Edmonton her family has organized it so when her son goes for his shot at the end of the month, his brother and sister will have appointments on the same day as well.

“They’ll be anxious together, and then we’ll go get a treat after together,” she laughed.


Melinda Noyes, the executive director at Autism Edmonton, said "pharmacies are a great resource" because they’re quiet and in a private room. However, appointment bookings can be limited. She told CTV News as Alberta progresses through the ranks of vaccine categories, home visits may have to be considered by the province as well.

“The environment is a big factor,” she added.

“We would really love it if additional spaces were offered.”

McDonald said they will look at expanding clinic availability if there’s a demand for more appointments in the future.

“They walk out feeling so proud,” she said.

“Their families you see that stress level really just decrease as we work together, and then they know leaving their loved one is protected against COVID.”

With files from CTV Edmonton’s Touria Izri