Ottawa

Community health centre aims to bust myths about COVID-19

The South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre is aiming to bust myths about COVID-19 and vaccines in a town hall-style virtual meeting for community residents on Wednesday evening. 

South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre wants to encourage vaccine confidence

Vaccine hesitancy is rife within some of the neighbourhoods hit hardest by COVID-19, community outreach workers say. (Jean Delise/CBC)

There are growing concerns in some parts of Ottawa hit hardest by COVID-19 that mistrust and vaccine hesitancy could make the situation worse. 

The South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre is aiming to bust myths about COVID-19 and vaccines during a town hall-style virtual meeting on Wednesday evening. 

A panel of health experts will answer questions and share "honest information" about vaccines in this diverse community, organizers say.

Soraya Allibhai, the health centre's COVID-19 coordinator, said with illness, isolation and lost jobs, some residents are struggling.

"There is a predominance of COVID cases in Ottawa South, and so we want to provide education ... when it comes to vaccinations and building confidence around that as well," said Allibhai. "People are struggling financially, emotionally. There's a challenge with the school closures and lockdowns. Each and every day is harder." 

Soraya Allibhai is the South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre's COVID-19 coordinator. (Submitted by Soraya Allibhai)

Sudesh Gurung, who came to Canada from Nepal several years ago and now works as a resident leader with the South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre, said building trust with the community is important during the pandemic.  

A lot of people in the community are essential workers, and some have been exposed the virus in the workplace, said Gurung.

He spends time going door to door, providing information to residents in multiple languages including English, Nepali, Hindi, Urdu, Spanish and sign language.

"There are a lot of myths circulating in our community, because the community is reluctant to trust the people," said Gurung. "So we want to try to engage them and share information about COVID vaccines." 

Concerns include the speed at which the vaccines have been developed, and Gurung said often misinformation is being spread through social media. Given the language barrier, he said, correct public health information can be drowned out by the myths. 

Sudesh Gurung came to Canada from Nepal several years ago and now works as a resident leader with the South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre. He says building trust with the community is important during the pandemic. (Submitted by Sudesh Gurung)

"The myths are circulating through their circles," said Gurung. "They're not sure what other things are in the vaccine. Is it halal [Arabic for "permissible under Islamic law"]?"

While Wednesday night's session will be in English, the team is working on handouts in other languages, as well as other outreach events in a variety of languages including Arabic and Somali.  

"People can feel comfortable in their language to actually ask questions," said Allibhai. 

She said the centre also wants its neighbours to know support is available, including food, baby supplies and technology.

Wednesday's event will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. on the South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre's Facebook page.

Workers at South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre are helping to debunk myths about the COVID-19 vaccine in a culturally diverse area of the city through online events. 8:22

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Ireton

Senior Reporter

Julie Ireton is a senior reporter who works on investigations and enterprise news features at CBC Ottawa. She's also the host of the new CBC investigative podcast, The Band Played On. You can reach her at julie.ireton@cbc.ca

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