Door-to-door campaign aims to boost vaccination rates, counter misinformation in Montreal area
Outreach workers say when they knock on doors, the reaction is mixed
A team of door-to-door outreach workers is bringing information about resources and vaccination directly to people's homes, in an effort to inform residents and dispel false information they may have seen on social media.
This week, they were knocking on doors in the west end of Pierrefonds, a neighbourhood in Montreal's West Island where vaccination rates are lagging.
In some parts of Pierrefonds, only 63 per cent of eligible people have received their first dose.
Andreea Tater, an outreach worker, said overall the reactions have been mixed when she's out knocking on doors.
"Some people are so happy to see us do this job and help people get vaccinated," she said. "And some people are more closed off."
Some of the people she encounters on the job express concerns about potential harmful effects of the vaccine.
"There's some people that are really scared from the information they are getting from social media," added Tater.
"We've seen people being concerned about news they've seen online or culturally they don't believe in vaccines. Or some people who think their immune system is strong enough to beat COVID. But we sometimes need to remind people that we have to protect each other."
While not everyone is a convert after her visit, Tater says that it feels good to do her part.
"Talking to people that wouldn't have gone to get vaccinated if we hadn't gone by, because they don't know how to register, or they don't know how to get there, or they don't know how to deal with having kids and also go to get vaccinated, it's really fulfilling to help those people out."
Beyond the need for credible information, the outreach workers are also providing people with access to community resources and helping to identify issues that are causing people to hold off booking their appointments.
Martha Cadieux, a community organizer with the West Island CIUSSS, said in Pierrefonds West, there aren't many vaccination clinics close by and public transportation is limited.
These are just some of the hurdles the keep people from getting their shot.
"There's also a wide variety of languages spoken in this sector here, so it could also be a matter of understanding the information and having access to it. So those are all things that we are trying to address by going to the people, not just hoping that they'll come to us," said Cadieux.
She said that a large proportion of people 50 and over in the area are vaccinated, but "as we go younger and younger, the number drops."
Cadieux said part of the work being done involves finding ways to make vaccination more accessible for people, including identifying locations where pop-up clinics are needed.
They are also handing out masks and connecting people with other services to address food insecurity or mental health issues.
Meanwhile, on the same day in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, outreach workers were visiting houses in that neighbourhood, where the first-dose vaccination rate in some areas hovers around 60 per cent.
Marylène Broyer, a community worker with the CIUSSS, said her goal in going door to door is to get people to "feel safe with the vaccination."
"People are so receptive, the majority of them. They thank us and they are so smiley and everything," she said.
While some people have expressed fears, Broyer is hopeful that the information she hands out will make a difference.
"It's important to inform people about vaccines in general so they can stop fearing the vaccine," she added.
With files from Valeria Cori-Manocchio and Jessica Wu