Rural program aims to cut through vaccine hesitancy
There are Ontarian's who will never get vaccinated, no matter what, but a group of researchers suggest it’s time to extend an olive branch to those, especially in Rural Ontario, that are simply “vaccine hesitant.”
“Too often people that are vaccine hesitant are met with derision or anger, and that’s not going to get them on the path to getting vaccinated. So, by having an open discussion, non-judgemental with these trained volunteers, maybe we can make some progress,” says Reaching Rural co-ordination, Daniel Stuckless.
Stuckless, a University of Waterloo pharmacy student, is working with researchers at the Gateway Centre of Excellence for Rural Health in Huron County. He is also working with Dr. Feng Chang on a program to connect vaccinated residents of Huron, Bruce and Grey counties, with unvaccinated ones.
Vaccinated volunteers would have once a month video calls or teleconferences with their neighbours who haven’t yet got the shot. Currently, both Huron-Perth and Grey-Bruce sit just behind the provincial average of 80 per cent of eligible residents who are fully vaccinated.
“Maybe someone that was vaccine hesitant but came around on it. That’s the kind of person and perspective we want to share with people, because at the end of the day, we aren’t trying to force you to get the vaccine through this program. It’s about having an open discussion that’s valuable. Right now, all we have is people yelling back and forth at each other. How about sitting at a table to talk about it and address those concerns,” says Stuckless.
As well-intentioned as they may be, Stuckless says it’s plain to see that things like vaccine mandates and passports are pushing those already inclined not to listen to government officials, even further towards not getting vaccinated. He hopes a chat with a neighbour might better address those unvaccinated folks concerns.
“A lot of the time, personally, I don’t see that being addressed all that well. You could try and address that through a government level or high level, but people might not listen to that at this point. So, getting that rural perspective, someone they might even know, I think that could be valuable,” he says.
To learn more about the Reaching Rural program you can visit https://www.gatewayruralhealth.ca/
A Community Vaccine Champion Workshop & Practical Session for people to learn more will take place on Oct. 13