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Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health to host vaccine hesitancy project

A University of Waterloo student is working with the Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health in Goderich on a project to improve COVID-19 vaccination rates and vaccine confidence in Huron, Bruce and Grey counties.

Daniel Stuckless says despite good vaccination rates locally so far, many people remain hesitant to get the vaccine for a number of reasons. So the goal of the project is to pair vaccinated volunteers in the community with unvaccinated residents in a judgement free space to discuss concerns and the merits of the vaccine.

“Honestly there’s been a lot of vitriol and stuff to reckon for vaccinated people and that’s just going to sort of further polarize it, so the idea is to have as open and non-judgemental as possible type of space for these people top have a conversation with people who are vaccinated and sort of see if that can kind of clear up any misconceptions.”

Stuckless says there are many reasons why people remain hesitant to get the vaccine, starting with dislike of the government.

“That distrust of the government, you know, the government saying ‘Here’s this vaccine passport and you have to take it.’ For a lot of people, there’s amn immediate reaction to say ‘No I’m going to do the opposite of that’ because people don’t like the government telling them what to do and that’s especially true in these more rural areas where we’re more self-sufficient and we like to have that more independent mindset, I feel.”

Also, there is a lot of misinformation flying around the internet, which Stuckless says causes further hesitancy.

“There’s a lot of information out there that implies that the vaccines are unsafe or ineffective and not all of that information is coming out through ‘alternative’ media sources. Sometimes even headlines from big news organizations, they kind of do a poor job sometimes of explaining the whole situation and they can create a lot of uncertainty for people.”

Stuckless points to some of the reports out of Israel involving rare side effects or different conditions popping up post-vaccination in some people, but he says often times those side effects are blown out of proportion and they simply require bed rest or some extra health monitoring to get over.

On top of those things, Stuckless notes that there are people who have a preference for natural immunity to illnesses. However, as he says, there can be very evident complications with that approach.

“The only problem with that one is that if you get the immunity from the disease, it’s a lot rougher than getting it through a vaccine and if you look at the ICU numbers, for instance, it’s well over 80 and 90 percent unvaccinated people that are in there.”

Daniel says the Gateway Centre will be doing a training session for interested volunteers who want to help with the project and speak with unvaccinated members of their communities to address vaccine hesitancy on September 29th. Volunteers from Huron, Bruce and Grey counties can sign up at cvctraining.eventbrite.ca.

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