Sat. May 21st, 2022

Reinforcing community efforts is a good idea, one expert noted, but said a helpline for the unvaccinated will only work if it’s staffed by the right people.

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Over the past year, vaccination efforts by local health authorities in Montreal have taken many forms.

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Traditional ways of vaccinating the public were balanced with targeted approaches, many of which yielded satisfactory results. There were pop-up clinics, the locations of which were chosen through partnerships with community organizations, and in some cases, door-to-door efforts to hand out pamphlets translated into more than a dozen languages.

To reach the eight per cent of eligible Montrealers who have yet to receive a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, these efforts continue.

“What we’re finding has worked well is that we work along with our local partners,” said Dashka Coupet, co-ordinator of vaccine operations at the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal. “ We have different types of partners: we have local community organizations religious entities… we have town halls, and we do a lot of Q-and-A sessions. ”

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This past weekend, the health authority set up a clinic at COVIQ (Duff-Court District Life Committee), a community group in an area where vaccination rates have been lagging behind. It was not the first time they’ve set up a clinic at this location, Coupet said.

“You see the benefit to it, to coming, because you’re able to build a trusting relationship,” she said, adding that they administered around 185 shots (of various doses). “These were individuals who want to be vaccinated. What we’re noticing is some of them have the information, but… for different reasons, they’re having a difficult time making it out to our vaccination sites. ”

The efforts have been ongoing over the course of the campaign and will continue, Coupet said.

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On Monday, Quebec’s Junior Health Minister, Lionel Carmant, announced the province’s plan to reach the 540,000 adult Quebecers who remain unvaccinated to reinforce efforts already in place, in addition to recruiting university students to administer vaccines, adding a pop-up clinic downtown and setting up a phone line for Quebecers to speak with health-care personnel about their concerns.

Asked whether anything new was being introduced aside from the efforts listed above, Carmant said no.

“It’s really intensification of what has been done before,” he said. “And again, we need to specify the success that has been done with these pop-up clinics before – going from 1.2 million unvaccinated to 600,000 unvaccinated. So now we want to use the same technique, intensify it, to increase the visibility to have further success with this technique. ”

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Being consistent in its efforts is how the CIUSSS du Center-Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal was able to increase vaccine uptake on its territory, according to Christine Touchette, its director of frontline integrated services.

“Maintaining these efforts, we managed to reach a point where our population is quite well covered,” Touchette said. “ I think it’s the continuity… sometimes there’s someone you’ll miss but then if you do go back, that person is going to be around. … So I think it’s really the aspect of reaching out and being consistent in what we’re doing that’s having an impact. ”

Dr. Kim Lavoie, Canada research chair in behavioral medicine and psychology professor at Université du Québec à Montréal, said that while she appreciates Quebec’s acknowledgment Monday that the unvaccinated population represents a diverse group with various motivations, solutions have to be matched to the problem.

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Reinforcing community efforts to reach vulnerable and marginalized groups, she said, is a good idea. But for those who are scared, the new helpline will only work if it is staffed by the right people.

“We need to make sure that whoever is having the conversations has specific training in what I would call behavior-change counseling or motivational communication approaches that are specifically designed to motivate people to adopt health behaviors like vaccines,” she said. “I’d be willing to bet that no one is going to have that training, or not enough.”

Outside of existing strategies at local health authorities, which are autonomous in their vaccination campaigns, Carmant said the province’s strategy will not involve cold-calling the unvaccinated or going door-to-door – efforts that have proved useful in other places.

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In Toronto, a three-pillared approach has guided the campaign. It involves a traditional immunization drive; a campaign that closely resembles that of an election, with door-knocking and cold-calling; and community-based efforts to bring vaccines to the people.

“We understand we’re operating in a city which is extremely diverse and the core principle here is you need to reach people where they’re at,” said City Councilor Joe Cressy, chair of the Toronto Board of Health. “Go to them in the languages ​​they speak, in the settings where they live, where they work, where they shop, where they play.”

Through its call center, which targets priority neighborhoods in 14 languages, barriers to vaccine access are identified and addressed, Cressy said.

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“If we call and they need a ride, we’ll arrange transport,” he said. “If they need childcare, we’ll arrange childcare. If they have concerns and questions, we will arrange for them to speak with the public health nurse. ”

The campaign has also brought pop-up clinics to places like steakhouses and strip clubs.

“All of those things are evidence-based strategies,” Lavoie said. We need to take out all the inconvenience possible and bring (the vaccine) to them. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. ”

kthomas@postmedia.com

twitter.com/katelynthomas

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