City of Toronto announces formation of a COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence Working Group

Today, the City of Toronto is providing additional details on efforts to combat vaccine hesitancy in Toronto, led by the City's COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence Working Group.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence Working Group is implementing a multi-sectoral approach to boost vaccine confidence in Toronto, including among health care professionals and communities with historically low vaccination rates. This work is informed through the use of an equity lens and an understanding of the cultural, religious and historical contexts that may contribute to vaccine hesitancy.

Objectives

The Working Group's objectives are to:

  1. Create and promote a trusted network that is a source for vaccine information.
  2. Support the public to make informed decisions about vaccination.
  3. Provide clear information and guidance for healthcare providers.
  4. Support and empower staff to answer vaccine questions with confidence.
  5. Ensure that Toronto Public Health staff adhere to the immunization position statement/philosophy.
  6. Collaborate with community partners to ensure equity and access.
To achieve this, the Working Group collaborates with community partners to empower them to talk about vaccines to their clients and communities. The Working Group also serves as a forum to share information among City divisions, ensure consistent messaging across the organization and identify and discuss the latest evidence and challenges.

The Working Group meets regularly and has been doing so since January. To date, the group has:

  • Developed presentations and resources for long-term care home staff aimed at increasing uptake of vaccination among staff.
  • Trained COVID-19 Hotline staff so that they can provide support to members of the public seeking vaccine information.
  • Provided training to more than 800 community ambassadors and agency staff virtually to build vaccine trust and support the public in making an informed decision about COVID-19 vaccination.
Composition

The Working group comprises public health experts within the City of Toronto. It is chaired by Dr. Vinita Dubey, Associate Medical Officer of Health, and comprises staff from the Immunization Task Force, COVID-19 Liaison team, Emergency Operations Centre, COVID-19 Planning, COVID-19 Operations and Strategic Support and Communications.

These members support COVID-19 health promotion efforts targeting seniors, long-term care homes, community partner agencies, physicians and healthcare providers and the general public.

Background on vaccine hesitancy

Vaccines are safe and can protect the recipient from serious illness due to COVID-19. Despite this, vaccine hesitancy persists. Polling data done by the City in Fall 2020 showed that 11 per cent of Toronto residents were unsure about whether they will take the vaccine.

Vaccine hesitancy can be influenced by factors such as complacency, convenience and confidence in the vaccine. Misinformation, especially on social media, may contribute to hesitancy. For many racialized groups, vaccine hesitancy can be based on a long history of mistrust of government and health care institutions.

Vaccines are an important tool to help stop the spread of COVID-19. More information about the benefits of vaccination is available online:

https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-protect-yourself-others/covid-19-vaccines/covid-19-benefits-of-getting-vaccinated/

A report providing an update on the City’s response to COVID-19, including information on the COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence Working Group, will be considered at the March 22, 2021 Board of Health meeting and is available online:

http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/decisionBodyProfile.do?function=doPrepare&meetingId=19769

Quotes

"We are doing everything we can as a municipal government to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as the vaccine supply allows. The City's COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence Working Group is doing important work addressing vaccine hesitancy so that everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated actually gets their shot. The sooner that people are vaccinated, the sooner we will bring this pandemic to an end. I encourage all Toronto residents to get vaccinated when they are eligible to help protect themselves and their loved ones." - Mayor John Tory

"The case for vaccines is clear – immunization has saved more lives than any other health intervention in the 20th century. Clear and truthful messages supporting vaccines and their importance is critical to combatting COVID-19. The sooner we have more people vaccinated against this virus and its variants, the more lives we will save and we will get back to life more as we remember it before this pandemic."

- Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health

“Our objective is to ensure that every resident in every corner of our city can access a COVID-19 vaccine. However, to succeed we know that this immunization campaign requires more than just accessible clinics – it requires trust. That’s where our Vaccine Confidence Working Group comes in. This group is working non-stop to ensure Torontonians are willing and ready to take the vaccine when it’s their turn."

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

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