Efforts to get information about vaccines to young adults underway as Manitoba COVID-19 cases surge

As COVID-19 cases rise and more infectious coronavirus variants spread, Manitoba's vaccine task force says they want to get a COVID-19 vaccine into as many arms as they possibly can.
Vaccinating more younger people will help Manitoba reach herd immunity, Dr. Joss Reimer says. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

As COVID-19 cases rise and more infectious coronavirus variants spread, Manitoba's vaccine task force says they want to get a COVID-19 vaccine into as many arms as they possibly can. 

Eligibility to get a vaccine has expanded to include many as young as 18, and now some are looking for ways to make sure younger adults are getting the message about the importance of getting vaccinated. 

"I think what we should be focusing on is quality, credible information," said Dr. Marcia Anderson, who helps lead the Manitoba First Nations pandemic response team. 

Since the start of the pandemic, Anderson has seen a higher rate of more severe outcomes due to COVID-19 in First Nations people and that includes those in younger age groups, she said. More infectious variants are also leading to younger people getting sicker. 

"All along we've talked about how we need to protect our loved ones, to protect our elders, to work together to protect our communities," Anderson said. "As we see this age shift and as we see more [variants of concern] … it's also about our young adults and our young people who need to get the vaccine to protect themselves."

On Monday, Anderson announced all Indigenous people 18 and up in Manitoba are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Now, it's about getting the word out.

Dr. Marcia Anderson helps lead the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 pandemic response team. (Submitted by Dr. Marcia Anderson)

She points to younger people connecting through social media, such as the new campaign, Protect our People MB, as one of the ways to do that. 

"So really looking at who has influence and who are trusted voices for First Nations young adults and then reaching them through the media and the mechanisms that work for them." 

The campaign officially launches next week. 

"The multi-phased campaign aims to engage Indigenous peoples ages 18-35 with the creative collaborations of prominent Indigenous influencers via social media to encourage vaccine confidence and build a unified and healthier future for Indigenous peoples in Manitoba," co-ordinator Teena Legris said in an email.

WATCH | Getting information about vaccines to younger adults:

How to get vaccine facts to young adults

2 years ago
Duration 2:37
As Manitoba once again finds itself up against a rising number of COVID-19 cases, work is underway to help make sure younger adults are getting the message about getting vaccinated.

People 18 and older who live or work in certain jobs in COVID-19 hotspots in Manitoba are also eligible to get vaccinated.

The province said Wednesday it expects all adults to be able to book a COVID-19 vaccine by May 21. 

University of Manitoba student president Brendan Scott said he first saw that news shared by other students on social media. 

In fact, it's where he finds a lot new information and updates about COVID-19. 

"Whatever the province announces, whether it be eligibility on vaccines or new restrictions, it seems to be posted to Instagram in many different forms," Scott said.

Brendan Scott is president of the University of Manitoba Students' Union. (Submitted by Brendan Scott)

The University of Manitoba Students' Union plans to use social media, their podcast and their newsletter, which reaches roughly 24,000 undergrad students, to pump out information and facts about COVID-19 vaccines to students as part of a campaign next month. 

"Light a fire under their butt to go out and get it," said Scott.

Being able to get back to regular classes is one of the key reasons he thinks students will be eager to get vaccinated, he said. 

"Everyone wants to go back to normal life," he said. "It's about are they proactive enough to go out and get it."

An estimated 13.5 per cent of people 29 and under in Manitoba have received a COVID vaccine. Numbers show 25,513 shots administered out of the estimated 188,000 Manitobans in that age group. 

So far, more than 40 per cent of adults in the province have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Tracie Afifi is a professor in the department of community health sciences at the University of Manitoba. (Submitted by Janique Fortier)

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba's vaccine task force, said the province may have a greater chance of reaching herd immunity as more younger people become eligible for vaccines. 

Tracie Afifi, a professor in the department of community health sciences at the University of Manitoba, advises people  to focus on three main targets when talking to younger people about vaccines: safety, how they work, and why it's important to protect yourself against infection. 

"Even if an individual gets sick with COVID-19 and recovers, it's very likely that they'll probably have passed that on to other people, and those people will pass it on to other people and not all of those people are going to have minor illness," she said.

"Some of them will be very sick. They might be hospitalized and they might die. So I think that's why it's really important to communicate why is it important to protect yourself against COVID-19 infection."

And try to keep it simple, she said. 

"I wouldn't recommend giving them a document that's several pages long," she said. "Maybe we can create really quick ways for individuals to gather information effectively."

With files from Bryce Hoye