Vaccine clinics are urging people to be patient and respectful after reports that their staff are facing abuse and bullying from those seeking their second doses.

On Saturday afternoon, Vaccine Hunters Canada, a volunteer group helping the country’s immunization efforts, tweeted that they have received many reports of people “being abusive” to clinic staff, “trying to bully their way” into getting their second doses even though they are not yet eligible.

“This is not how you treat anyone at all,”  the group said

Terrence Rodriguez, who works with the Rexdale Community Health Centre, said it has been happening for a few days now.

“We’re really just trying to help and support as much as possible, realizing that the major reason for this happening is because people are anxious and stressed. So, we just try to hold space as much as we can and answer as many questions as we can,” Rodriguez said in an interview with CP24.

However, he said it has been challenging for the staff, who are mostly volunteers. Rodriguez noted that in several instances, some people became aggressive and asked a barrage of questions. Some individuals also show up at clinics at the end of the day, hoping extra doses could be given as their second shot.

“It also is challenging for us because it takes up the time and the space for the people who are there to try to organize the whole lineups and the vaccination…because that’s where a lot of those crowds come in, and those staff and volunteer there to try to organize that. So, it takes up the capacity for that as well.”

Rodriguez wants to remind the public that they are just following guidance from the local health unit, and they can’t change it.

“Patience is key,” he said. “So, we hope that just people can give us a little more time and space. We’ll get the second doses there. But right now, for our clinics specifically, we’re there to serve a particular hot spot population that doesn’t have a lot of supports or capacities.”

A spokesperson for Humber River Hospital, which is hosting a pop-up clinic at Downsview Arena, confirmed that they too had experienced similar incidents.

Woodbine Entertainment said they are not aware of similar incidents at their clinics.

“Hopefully it’s an isolated incident. So many people are volunteering their time to help their communities. They certainly don’t deserve that treatment if true,” a spokesperson said.

Dr. Lisa Salamon-Switzman, an emergency physician at Scarborough Health Network, shared on social media her experience of being bullied last week when their clinic began administering vaccines to those between the ages of 12 and 17.

“So many parents trying to bully us and make up stories. I am speechless that this continues to happen,” she tweeted.

Emergency doctor Steve Flindall also urged people to be kind.

“As someone staffing a vaccine clinic this weekend myself, I can tell you no one working at any site wants to tell anyone ‘no’ to a vaccine. However, asking front-line staff, who have no say in policy, to go against directives, is not helpful,” he tweeted.

In March, the province adopted guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization that prolonged the interval between the first and second doses to up to 16 weeks, instead of the 21 to 28 days recommended by vaccine manufacturers.

The government said it was done to accelerate the vaccine rollout. But with increased vaccine supply, many have been wondering if that interval can be shortened.

Earlier this month, Premier Doug Ford said he wants a two-dose summer in Ontario.

“If we get the supply, we will work our backs off to have a two-dose summer instead of a one-dose summer,” he said.

At this time, a number of high-risk individuals may be able to get their second dose earlier than four months. Also, all hospital staff caring for COVID-19 patients or at high risk of infection, COVID-19 specimen collection and lab testing personnel, first responders, community health workers and essential caregivers of long-term care residents can book their second dose vaccine appointments.

Those who used the province’s booking portal were prompted to book appointments for the two doses at the same time. However, many residents who got their vaccine through a pop-up clinic or a pharmacy don’t have dates for their second doses. The province advised them to contact the clinic or the pharmacy where they received their first dose for information.

On Friday, Ontario said people who got the AstraZeneca vaccine would be able to get their second dose as soon as next week.

Meanwhile, Canada reached a milestone on Saturday, with more than half of the country’s population receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

In Ontario, more than 7.9 million doses have been administered to date.