A jab in the comfort of home and other ways Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine hesitant are being convinced

A recent Angus Reid poll found that vaccine hesitancy is more common in Alberta than in the rest of the country with one in five Albertans disinclined to get a shot.

To put that into perspective, that is about twice the national average. 

Experts agree more people need to get the shot to avoid another pandemic resurgence with devastating consequences. 

Here are some of the ways Alberta businesses and community organizations are making COVID-19 vaccines more accessible and convincing the hesitant to roll up their sleeves: 

A shot in the comfort of home

Daniel Boissoneau got his first COVID-19 vaccine dose last week at his Edmonton home, with his wife sitting nearby, and his six-year-old daughter peeking from the staircase. 

Even after contracting COVID-19 in December, Boissoneau was still hesitant. But a nudge from his mother and the possibility that the vaccination would aid his career options as a courier helped him make the decision. 

“The pros pretty much outweighed the cons,” he said.

Daniel Boissoneau receives his first COVID-19 vaccine dose on Thursday, July 22, at his Edmonton home. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

And the option to get his shot at home made it even simpler.

Dr. Jennifer Njenga, CEO of Canada Homecare Group, an Edmonton-based team of medical professionals that provide after-hours medical care for patients in their homes, said the option of getting the vaccine at home has convinced people of all ages to get vaccinated.

“We had some seniors who were at home on oxygen. They said they just did not manage to go and get the vaccines done,” Njenga said.

“So we’ve put the word out and said, ‘look, we can come to you.’ And when they’re hearing about us, they’re calling us and saying, ‘Hey, can you give me that vaccine?’ “

WATCH | Getting a vaccine in the comfort of home:

A recent poll suggests vaccine hesitancy in Alberta is twice the national average. Some businesses and organizations are trying to make COVID-19 vaccines more accessible, and educating those who are hesitant to roll up their sleeves: 2:11

Listening to friends and families 

Since COVID-19 vaccines became available in Alberta, politicians such as Premier Jason Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro and experts like Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, have encouraged Albertans to get vaccinated. And for many people, those messages were persuasive. 

But for others, hearing directly from people they know and trust can have a bigger impact.  

The Africa Centre, a pan-African non-profit organization in Edmonton, produced an online video to let people know how easy and safe it is to get the shots as it launched its own vaccine clinics in May.

“You have natural community influencers and leaders. So those are the ones that we have used in terms of delivering the message,” said Sharif Haji, executive director of the Africa Centre. 

About 50 people have gotten the vaccine every Friday at the Africa Centre’s vaccine clinics since they began in May.

Free food and pop-up clinics

Earlier this month, Action for Healthy Communities Society of Alberta, a charity that works with Albertans to build communities and empower diverse groups to improve community health and well-being, held a barbecue and pop-up clinic in Edmonton’s Queen Mary Park neighbourhood.

“From our perspective the clinic was very successful with 80 jabs in arms,” said project manager Gail Kesslar with the Edmonton COVID-19 Rapid Response Collaborative. 

Mohamed Rafik Conteh received the COVID-19 vaccine at a community barbecue event in July. (Submitted by Action for Healthy Communities Society of Alberta)

Africa Centre also offers free food to sweeten the deal. Part of its COVID-19 response has been providing food hampers with various cultural foods. The vaccine clinics are held on the same day each week that food hamper pickups are scheduled. 

“So [people say] ‘OK, I’m coming for the food, but I will also be able to get the vaccine since I’m there,’ ” Haji said. 

Free rides to vaccines

For many Albertans, Haji said not having access to a personal vehicle can be a barrier to getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

But there’s an app for that. 

“If somebody doesn’t want to take the risk of taking transit and doesn’t have the ability to drive, we provide Uber rides so that people can come and get the vaccine,” he said.

“That’s important. Like the small amount of resources that you put there saves not only one person, but … those who could get exposed to that individual. And it has been a way of mitigating some of the barriers.” 

Africa Centre is one of 11 organizations that make up the Edmonton COVID-19 Rapid Response Collaborative.

Working with 211 Alberta — the province’s community helpline — the agencies have used an Uber code promotion to connect about 20 pop-up clinic attendees to the service, Kesslar said. 

Social gatherings for newcomers 

Sophie Zunamu, an organizer with Francophonie Albertaine Plurielle (FRAP), hopes an event she’s hosting allows Black, French-speaking women a chance to socialize with other newcomer moms and talk about vaccines while their children splash around in a spray park.

Sophie Zunamu said the event she hosted for Black, French-speaking women and their children at an Edmonton spray park on July 23 was meant to promote women’s confidence in vaccines. (Submitted by Sophie Zunamu)

 

“This workshop aims to bring newcomer Francophone women out of their isolation after a long period of confinement,” Zunamu said ahead of the July 23 event held at Avonmore School in southeast Edmonton.

“We believe it is out of the ordinary but also a smart way to organize an outdoor workshop to promote women’s confidence in vaccines and adherence to public health measures.”

The organization said it was expecting 50 women at the event. 

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