Indigenous vaccine confidence being studied in northeastern Ontario
Researchers with NOSM working with Manitoulin Island groups
Researchers from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine want to find a way to make learning about vaccines fun for Indigenous youth, and hope by doing so, more young people will get vaccinated.
NOSM associate professors Marion Maar and Maurianne Reade, are leading the project.
Maar said like most young people, Indigenous youth are vaccinated at lower rates than older people in northern Ontario.
She said they wanted to have a closer look at where the youth were getting their information about vaccines.
"Because what we're seeing more and more is that people are coming really entrenched in their beliefs," she said.
"We know that it really doesn't work once a person becomes entrenched to just say 'Well, you should just be doing this and that's the science.' So we want to open it up."
To do that, Maar said they are partnering with Debajuhmehjig storytellers to design an educational game to engage youth in communities on Manitoulin Island.
"Debajuhmehjig has a lot of background with forums, theatre, improv but also in the past they have partnered with one of other academic partners in creating serious games," she said.
"Can we embed strengths such as Indigenous culture, Indigenous art and also combine that with the technology of, for example, serious games so making it a game to learn about vaccines, maybe making it an electronic game."
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Maar said the study will start with communities on Manitoulin Island but hopes it will expand beyond that scope. She expects it to take two years to complete.
Reade, who is also a member of the Ontario Immunization Advisory Committee, said it's an important topic to address.
"Intersectoral research collaborations create opportunities for new innovations that are needed to inform the most appropriate approach to society's most complex challenges," she said.
The researchers received $200,000 from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research for the project.
With files from Kate Rutherford