Innovative, community-based strategies addressing vaccine access, hesitancy and distrust

In partnership with four national and provincial Community Health Centre (CHC) Associations, the Alliance for Healthier Communities has formed a coordination table to improve vaccine-related communications for marginalized people in Canada. This work is funded by Community Vaccination Promotion (CVP) grants from the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) Immunization Partnership Fund. The $30.25 million Immunization Partnership Fund was announced in June 2020 and is meant to support community-based initiatives to increase COVID-19 vaccine uptake. Our partners at the CVP National Coordination Table are:

 Here in Ontario, the CVP grant is resourcing 11 of our member centres to provide tailored vaccine promotion communication, tools, and outreach activities that are equity-informed, culturally appropriate, and deeply tailored to the unique needs of their communities. The geographically diverse centres are focusing on Black, racialized, younger adult, francophone, newcomer, Mennonite, and other populations who are hesitant.

 Alliance members are undertaking the following initiatives as part of this project:

  • Centre francophone du Grand Toronto is providing vaccine resources, dedicated telephone helpline, and door-to-door outreach in French to support Francophone populations in the Greater Toronto region and beyond.
  • Compass Community Health is working with local public health and community partners to share information and collaboratively address existing barriers and gaps in access to vaccination services in one of Hamilton’s designated COVID-19 hot spots.
  • Hamilton Urban Core CHC is partnering with community leaders, organizations and networks to help clients navigate vaccine clinics, answer questions, and provide guidance, support, and interpretation in different languages by a Cultural Community Vaccine Ambassador, with focus on Arabic-speaking communities.
  • Regent Park Community Health Centre is working with community partners and community-based ambassadors who will support promotion and engagement activities in the Regent Park and Moss Park communities in downtown east of Toronto.
  • Seaway Valley Community Health Centre is providing community-based vaccine education, promotion and outreach services to marginalized individuals living in Cornwall and across Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Counties.
  • Somerset West Community Health Centre is providing targeted, culturally and linguistically-tailored door-to-door and community outreach, education, navigation and support to newcomer residents, immigrants and racialized communities who face barriers to access in the Ottawa region.
  • South Riverdale Community Health Centre is partnering with other community health centres to develop relevant and engaging social media content for members of Black and racialized communities of high priority neighbourhoods in Toronto.
  • TAIBU Community Health Centre is providing community outreach, capacity building and training of leaders and community ambassadors, communication and engagement through various online platforms to Black and Francophone communities in the Greater Toronto region.
  • Thames Valley Family Health Team, in partnership with multiple agencies within their Ontario Health Team, is providing vaccination bookings and on-site interpretation services to primary care clinics in London serving marginalized groups including newcomers, refugees and persons without a health card.
  • Univi Health Centre has initiated a mass communication and social media campaign in partnership with local groups and Public Health to share vaccine promotion resources, messages, and assistance to clients in small rural communities of Sudbury East.
  • Woolwich Community Health Centre is providing culturally tailored community engagement, one-on-one peer support and vaccine promotion education and materials to Mennonite groups residing in Woolwich and Wellesley townships.

 The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have serious impacts on people in Canada, especially those who are racialized, newcomers, or living on a low income. Even though most people in this country are now vaccinated, there are still too many who are not. Infection rates are rising, and vaccinations are slowing down. Misinformation on social media is one reason. The widening digital divide, language and cultural differences, social isolation, and experiences of racism in healthcare all make it harder for marginalized people to get good information about the vaccines.

 To bridge these gaps, public health leaders, health and community organizations, and all levels of government need to work together. We need to develop culturally appropriate and accessible tools to make it easier for marginalized people to trust the vaccines, and the healthcare system overall. The CVP-funded national coordination table and our members’ work in Ontario will strengthen COVID-19 vaccine outreach and improve the health and wellbeing of many communities across Canada.

The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the Public Health Agency of Canada.