Day 6

Mobile vaccination clinics can help tackle hesitancy, distrust among at-risk groups, says doctor

While there are several mass vaccination clinics in Toronto, Dr. Marc Dagher, a family physician at Women’s College Hospital, says many of the most at-risk groups, including people living in shelters and congregate settings, may be more hesitant to visit these clinics.

'We hear a lot about the word hesitancy, but there are reasons': Dr. Marc Dagher

Health professionals say that mobile vaccine clinics will help address inequities within the health-care system, and reach people who may otherwise be hesitant about accessing mass vaccination centres. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

As vaccine distribution ramps up in Ontario, mobile vaccine clinics will play a key role in building trust in the shot among the province's hardest-hit groups, health professionals say.

While there are several mass vaccination clinics in Toronto, Dr. Marc Dagher says many of the most at-risk groups, including people living in shelters and congregate settings, may be more hesitant to visit these clinics.

"A lot of people will want to come to get vaccinated, but there's a lot of people who will not," Dagher, a family physician at Women's College Hospital, told Day 6 host Brent Bambury.

"That speaks to the ... bigger issue of issues with access to health care, distrust in the system."

Mobile vaccine clinics were first implemented in January when the province began vaccinating residents of long-term care homes and eventually seniors' residences, and before that, were used for COVID-19 testing. Now their ability to reach people who face other barriers in accessing health care makes them a valuable part of the vaccine roll out.

With rising COVID-19 infections, as well as hospital and ICU admissions, Ontario expanded vaccine eligibility to Ontarians 18 and over in "hot-spot" regions of the province, which will be provided through a mobile vaccine clinic.

Eliminating barriers through mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic

1 year ago
Duration 4:10
A Toronto hospital is working to eliminate more barriers by bringing COVID-19 vaccines to people who need it most with a mobile clinic in a virus hotspot.

Dagher says plans for mobile clinics in hot-spot neighbourhoods are underway, and his teams are following guidelines set by the province.

But he notes "it's not enough to get a team and go into the community and tell them I'm here to vaccinate," he said.

"That doesn't address the reason people are not getting vaccinated or does not address the inequities 100 per cent." 

'We're learning age-old lessons'

In the face of hesitancy, Dagher says health-care professionals must meet people where they're at and find workarounds.

"We hear a lot about the word hesitancy, but there are reasons. It's not just that the patient is hesitant," he said.

"It's really a two-way street, and the work has to come from both sides."

Part of that work includes building relationships with the organizations or groups they're visiting.

Nurse practitioner Vanessa Wright meets with organizational leaders to answer questions they may have about the vaccine and clinic in the days before needles even show up.

"Concerns that we're hearing are quite unique and quite specific, and I think that's sort of the approach that really takes that good amount of time to get to know an organization," she said.

"The individuals who work in these organizations, in terms of settlement workers, shelter workers, they're seen as more trusted, and we're guests in their organization."

Wright is answering questions from what's in the vaccines and side effects, to whether they affect fertility or are safe for people who are pregnant. Others may have worries about providing sensitive personal information during the registration process.

Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine strategy to target hot spots

1 year ago
Duration 6:18
The Ontario government is expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for more people over the age of 18 in regions hardest hit by the virus, starting with Toronto and Peel Region.

Those questions are something better answered in a one-on-one session rather than by handing someone a piece of paper, she says.

"It's a real balancing act between going out and giving the vaccines in a timely way and offering a catered and real approach to service delivery that is rooted in really what the community is needing."

Looking into the future, both Dagher and Wright hope that the lessons learned from pandemic-driven mobile clinics will lead to better "wraparound" care for at-risk communities.

"We're learning age-old lessons that are being adapted and reconfigured, and I hope that mobile health-care can just expand further," said Wright.

Written by Jason Vermes. Produced by Ashley Fraser.

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