Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health aims to improve vaccine confidence

·3 min read

HURON COUNTY – The Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health in Goderich is teaming up with the University of Waterloo (U of W) to improve rural vaccine confidence throughout Huron/Perth/Grey/Bruce counties.

U of W pharmacy co-op student Daniel Robert Stuckless is working with Dr. Feng Chang, assistant professor with the U of W School of Pharmacy and Chair for Rural Pharmacy at Gateway to create a mentor program.

The project’s goal is to train vaccinated volunteers to become Community Vaccine Champions (CVC) and then reach out to vaccine-hesitant people to provide as much information as they can.

“Despite the fantastic job done thus far with the vaccine rollout, there remain many in our community who have yet to be vaccinated due to vaccine hesitancy and/or difficulty accessing vaccination,” Stuckless said in an email.

“This includes some elderly individuals who are at very high risk of severe outcomes should they contract the virus,” he added.

These CVC volunteers will provide peer support and education on many myths and misconceptions regarding vaccines and the pandemic in general.

Stuckless said, “the hope is that if these individuals hear from someone within their own community in a space free of judgement and not hostile to their beliefs that this dialogue may increase their likelihood of getting vaccinated.”

Many misconceptions and myths about the COVID-19 vaccination have circulated since its inception.

“The most common reason for that resistance was government coercion,” Stuckless said in an interview with Midwestern Newspapers. “It’s not necessarily a myth, it’s an attitude.

“The best way to talk about that one is to agree, because it is a form of coercion, the government passport thing. A lot of people are in favour of the passports, but at the same time, you have to admit that is a form of coercion to say you can’t do the things you used to be able to do, without the vaccine.”

Stuckless said that when faced with this argument, he would have to agree, but he would then discuss the medical reasons with the individual.

“The way to counteract that is to agree…but medically however, there is a reason for you to get this, and it’s separate from the government telling you. Look at the data in the ICUs, look at the data in the hospitals, all of the deaths,” he said. “It has to be a medical decision they make on their own. The best thing I can do is just provide them with that information.”

Once a month, two community vaccine champions will host a call with community members who have not received a vaccine. This will provide an opportunity for dialogue and for the volunteers to share their experience with vaccination.

The volunteers will participate in mandatory training existing of six hours held across two sessions.

They will “co-facilitate” a monthly call with another trained volunteer and System Navigator for 1.5 hours and participate in any pre- and post-evaluation strategies (e.g., baseline information, interview, etc.).

The Centre hosted its first CVC workshop in an online event called Empowering Vaccine Resilient Communities on Sept. 29.

Stuckless said that an alternative date for training is currently being determined and will likely be held later in October.

The initiative is funded through a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, a division of the Government of Canada.

The “Encouraging Vaccine Confidence in Canada” grant provides up to $50,000 to organizations promoting vaccine confidence in Canadian communities.

If you want to learn more about becoming a CVC, visit https://cvctraining.eventbrite.ca/.

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times

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