PEI

Homegrown vaccine program gets a boost on P.E.I.

A team from UPEI is getting a half a million dollars to help develop and implement a vaccine support program for the province. 

UPEI group gets $500,000 to encourage vaccine confidence, uptake and access

The project will include putting out a survey about vaccines and uptake, to help inform the researchers and develop the program. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

A team from UPEI is getting a half a million dollars to help develop and implement a vaccine support program for the province. 

The project is one of 67 announced in January that will be funded by the federal government. 

"This probably won't be our only epidemic that we are going to experience in our lifetime," said Dr. William Montelpare, the chair in human development and health at UPEI and team lead for the project. 

 "Understanding immunization, understanding epidemics, understanding the role of vaccines, it's going to be part of our common vocabulary." 

The federal program that's funding the project is called the Immunization Partnership Fund, and is intended to support groups that encourage vaccine confidence, uptake and access. 

Dr. William Montelpare, the chair in human development and health at UPEI and team lead for the project, says understanding vaccines is important because 'this probably won't be our only epidemic.' (UPEI Photography)

The faculties of science, nursing, and education at UPEI will also be involved with this specific program. Along with UPEI, CHANCES Family Centre, the Immigrant and Refugee Services Association P.E.I., P.E.I. BIPOC-USHR and all seven Family Resource Centres located across the Island will work with the group. 

The project will first publish a survey about vaccines and uptake, to help inform the researchers. 

It will then develop material to provide information about immunization and, in particular, the COVID-19 vaccine. Then, it will provide information about immunization programs, and help identify what's keeping people from getting vaccinated. 

"Our program is really designed to increase the health literacy of Islanders, especially related to immunizations," Montelpare said. 

The program hopes to find the 'pockets of hesitancy' and find out what is stopping those people from getting vaccinated. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Dr. Kate Kelly, a postdoctoral fellow on the project, said some people are hesitant because they simply don't have enough information about the safety of vaccines. There are other reasons as well, including access to vaccine programs in terms of transportation, or child care. 

"The majority of Islanders are already vaccinated," Kelly said. "What we are interested in learning through the survey is where are those pockets of hesitancy and when we are looking at children for example — what are caregivers, how do they feel about immunizing children?"

The program will be delivered between June and December through the CHANCES program, and the other organizations.

"What's going on with the pandemic is science in real time," Kelly said.

"Our dream with this program is really to take that scientific discourse and bring it right down to a very easy to digest, easy to understand communication resource for Islanders so that we can improve health literacy, particularly around immunization and around COVID-19."

With files from Angela Walker

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