Worried by vaccine delays, health experts combat vaccine hesitancy over Zoom
Infectious diseases researcher Tara Moriarty is hosting video calls where people can ask questions
Scientist Tara Moriarty doesn't like to frame those with questions about COVID-19 vaccines as hesitant.
"People haven't had enough support and information — and the ability to talk to people — because everything is happening so fast for them to feel like they can make a good decision," she told Day 6 host Brent Bambury.
Spurred by the concern that the shots are not reaching Canadians fast enough, the infectious diseases expert hosts regular video calls on Zoom that anyone can join, and answers questions in order to combat misinformation and assuage fears over the roll-out of rapidly-approved COVID-19 vaccines.
Now, in her free time and alongside fellow experts, Moriarty opens the virtual floor to people with questions about vaccines for the coronavirus.
"I've learned repeatedly that individual citizens, volunteer groups and others do need to step in to fill in crucial gaps and to help, because if we wait for institutions and institutional plans to kick in, in this case, many people will die," said the associate professor and infectious diseases researcher at University of Toronto.
Recent polling from Ipsos and Leger found that seven in 10 Canadians say that they will get a Health Canada-approved vaccine when it becomes available to them.
Engaging those with questions in a conversation, Moriarty says, is key to helping those who are undecided.
"It's a conversation that we all have where we are talking to each other as individuals and as sort of citizens in the same mess."
'People want to be able to talk to someone'
Among the chief reasons for declining the vaccine, according to Ipsos' polling, are concerns over safety — a worry Moriarty hears regularly.
"Lots of people want to know what's in it," she explained, adding that the speed of the vaccine's approval also triggers questions. "The perception is that [the trials] were conducted very fast, but what people don't know is that there's actually a very long history to this type of vaccine.
"It's been researched for a long time and there was an enormous amount of money and scientific expertise around the entire world that was poured into all of this at once."
Meanwhile, as the research on COVID-19 vaccines evolves, some concerns — like whether or not breastfeeding parents should be vaccinated — are getting concrete guidance.
I started doing Zoom sessions last night where LTC/RH-linked Canadians who want to ask questions about COVID-19 vaccine safety can attend, anonymously if they want. There were 3 scientists, including me <a href="https://twitter.com/KrishanaSankar?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KrishanaSankar</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/thekimgauthier?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@thekimgauthier</a> who dropped in to help. It was great.—@MoriartyLab
While information on vaccine safety is widely available online, Moriarty argues that one-on-one interactions have the benefit of building trust and offering a more engaging experience.
"Because there is such a massive amount of information about COVID and the current vaccines right now — including massive amounts of misinformation — people want to be able to talk to someone who is going to help kind of point them through the maze," she said.
Talk to doctor, pharmacist
Moriarty would like to see governments step up and more forcefully combat vaccine misinformation.
"We should be communicating non-stop about this with people so that we can provide the support to them necessary to make decisions to make an important decision that affects their health, and the health of people around them," she said.
For those with concerns, she encourages people to reach out to their doctors, pharmacists or join one of her online sessions.
Moriarty says that she will soon receive her dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and has given approval for a long-term care home to administer it to her mother, who is a resident.
"I believe they're safe and it will change the lives of people who might not die from this, but who could be disabled for a very long time, or it could be very ill."
Written by Jason Vermes. Produced by Annie Bender.