Laurentian researchers heading to northern areas to foster COVID-19 'vaccine confidence'

Laurentian University researchers were awarded $50,000 for visits to communities and workplaces in northern Ontario to talk about the COVID-19 shot and encourage "vaccine confidence."

Catch phrase for September tour is “community immunity” to address concerns about the vaccine

The Laurentian research team will travel to remote and northern communities in September to address concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Researchers, students and staff from Laurentian University will travel across northern Ontario this September to answer questions about COVID-19 vaccine use and help build confidence in it.

"Vaccine confidence has real implications for the health and safety of workplaces and communities," said Dr. Chantal Barriault, director of the science communication graduate program.

Laurentian University researchers were awarded $50,000 by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) for visits to communities and workplaces to talk about the shot and encourage "vaccine confidence."

The tour will involve researchers and staff from the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health (CROSH) and the Science Communication Graduate Program.

"Northern Ontario has a unique culture, and the concerns and questions northern Ontarians have may not reflect the concerns of other Ontarians," said Dr. Sandra Dorman, director of CROSH. 

Sandra Dorman, director of the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health at Laurentian, says the motto of the researchers' tour is 'community immunity.' (Angela Gemmill/ CBC)

Dorman said researchers will contact every health unit before arriving to get a sense of what concerns people may have about vaccines, to learn who's likely not to get vaccinated and why, and address barriers.

Dorman said the motto of the project is "community immunity." They're encouraging people to embrace a community mentality, and protect the weakest members, with hopes of encouraging vaccination.

"There's a lot of hesitancy of the security vaccines might offer. ... some people aren't certain, some communities haven't been hit very hard by COVID and they're not sure if they need to be vaccinated. Or maybe they feel like, not having seen COVID, they might feel like they can get COVID and it will be fine."

Researchers will assemble material collected from the communities ahead of the tour so they're prepared to answer questions about the vaccine.

"If we can understand what reasons they have for not getting vaccinated, then we are hoping we can give them the confidence to get vaccinated," says Dorman.

As part of their work, the team will use the CROSH Mobile Research Lab, which is custom-designed to conduct occupational health and safety outreach and research.