City of Toronto and partners increase vaccine access and uptake for vulnerable residents through community mobilization and engagement

Today, Mayor John Tory announced that recent initiatives by community and health partnerships have led to increased COVID-19 vaccine uptake in vulnerable communities across the city.

Programs developed under the City of Toronto’s COVID-19 Community Mobilization and Engagement Plan are part of the TO Supports: Targeted Equity Action Plan and include partnerships with Toronto Public Health, Ontario Health Teams and community agencies that serve populations most vulnerable in areas hardest hit by COVID-19.

Recent community mobilization and engagement initiatives include:

  • The Black Scientists' Task Force on Vaccine Equity hosted a series of virtual Town Halls to share medical information and provide a forum for questions and concerns around vaccination. More than 6,500 residents attended these sessions and surveys of attendees show an average of 16 per cent positive change in intention to get vaccinated. The Task Force is made up of many of Canada's top Black scientists and works in partnership with the TAIBU Community Health Centre to address Black community concerns and issues related to COVID-19 virus, testing and vaccines.
  • Toronto's Accessibility Task Force on COVID-19 Vaccines was instrumental in vaccinating 200 people with disabilities and in achieving a 100 per cent completion rate for the vaccination of people with developmental disabilities in congregate settings. Dedicated vaccination clinics hosted by the Task Force and Toronto Public Health for people age 16 and older with disabilities are planned for mid-May. All 1,200 appointments for the clinics have been booked. The Task Force, made up of disability-mandated organizations and health partners, was formed in March to provide advice and recommendations on enhanced support and access to COVID-19 vaccine for people with disabilities.
  • In April, a $5.5 million grant was announced to establish 14 Vaccine Engagement Teams across the city made up of 155 community agencies to increase vaccine uptake in areas of the city experiencing high rates of COVID-19. These agencies have begun hiring 280 community ambassadors who will reach out directly to more than 68,000 residents to support them in addressing barriers to vaccination. So far, 1,075 non-profit sector representatives have been engaged in workshops, training and information sessions to prepare for community outreach and support in all 140 city neighbourhoods.
  • The City and partners have been working to help seniors access COVID-19 vaccine. The City's Vaccine Transportation Equity Plan funded community agencies to expand their ride service to provide seniors and other residents most vulnerable to barriers to access with transportation to their preferred vaccine clinic. To date 1,651 seniors, people with disabilities and immunocompromised individuals who do not have any other means to get to their vaccine appointment have taken advantage of this service. In addition, 20 community agencies who partner with the City in senior outreach have called 31,032 seniors and supported 8,284 residents in registering for vaccine appointments.
  • Faith leaders across the city have supported increased vaccine uptake for their congregants by hosting local vaccination clinics and sharing information about COVID-19 to address vaccine misinformation. Mayor Tory hosted 55 faith leaders at a virtual town hall in April to discuss ways to address hesitancy and other barriers to vaccination.
  • The City provided $1 million in funding to Indigenous agencies and groups to self-determine their approach to community engagement and mobilization.
  • The Province of Ontario has stated that people who not have an Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) card are still eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. To uphold its commitment to ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for everyone, the City has partnered with two community agencies that have stepped up to provide direct support to people who are eligible for a vaccine but who do not have an OHIP card. Early promotion of the program has resulted in a large volume of inquiries and support, indicating the need for this support and the interest in securing vaccination.
As Toronto continues the rollout of mass immunization, to reduce and eliminate the transmission of COVID-19, protect the healthcare system and save lives, the City continues to urge all residents to stay home as much as possible to help stop the spread of the virus. Please review the City’s COVID-19: Guide for Residents for recommended and mandatory public health measures under provincial regulations and City bylaws: https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-reopening-recovery-rebuild/covid-19-guide-for-toronto-residents/.

Quotes:

“Extraordinary work that is happening at the community level to support widespread access to COVID-19 vaccination. The strong partnership between our health partners, community agencies and City staff has resulted in some powerful programs that have been well-received by communities across the city. We've worked together to listen to and respond to specific community needs to help people get vaccinated. This is work that will pay off in the long run and make sure that we reach out to everyone in our city so that everyone is encouraged and helped to get vaccinated.” - Mayor John Tory

“We all want to get back to seeing family and friends, advancing our careers and building our businesses, but we want to do it safely. The far-reaching work done so far with our community and health partners is encouraging. With so many people protecting themselves through vaccination and helping others do the same, we are moving closer every day to our goal of reopening.” - Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre), Chair of the Economic and Community Development Committee

“Connecting with people on the ground – where they live, where they work, where they study and where they pray – is critical to the success of our vaccination campaign. By partnering with community agencies and local leaders, we're able to break down barriers and address concerns and hesitancy when it comes to vaccines. There's more work to be done, but thanks to these partnerships we are helping to get our city vaccinated.”

- Councillor Joe Cressy (Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Board of Health

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