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vaccine being administered in upper armA research team will employ students from the University of Windsor and St. Clair College to foster confidence in COVID vaccines. Image: Freepik.com

Researchers teaming up to build COVID-19 vaccine confidence among students and young adults

A group of experts with WE-Spark Health Institute received a $50,000 grant to support the project “Students Igniting Vaccine Confidence Program in Windsor-Essex.”

The funds are part of a federal initiative investing $2.25 million to promote vaccine confidence through information sharing. The funds will be jointly administered by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

The program will focus on four main objectives:

  • identify and understand drivers of both vaccine confidence and hesitancy;
  • focus on the unique perspective of racially and ethnically diverse younger populations;
  • develop and implement evidence-based practices to address personal, social, and physical barriers to vaccine knowledge and trust; and
  • work with community partners to build trust and ensure equitable access.

The project will employ a multidisciplinary and diverse team of students from the University of Windsor and St. Clair College to work with the program leaders to design activities, translate information, and educate all members of the regional community.

“Essentially our team of students become COVID-19 vaccine promoters and educators by engaging, informing, and providing evidence-based resources that will support and empower them in their efforts to serve as community influencers,” says lead researcher Dora Cavallo-Medved, a biomedical sciences professor.

Through workshops and events to include health researchers, clinicians, students, and community leaders, the team will deliver information sessions targeted to overcome vaccine hesitancy.

These sessions will provide education about vaccine development, efficacy, policies, protocols, and community outcomes, and will be tailored to address specific vaccine hesitancies identified among younger populations.

“These outreach events will be led by students in collaboration with community partners, health researchers, and knowledge translation experts,” says co-investigator Sarah Woodruff, a professor of kinesiology.

The group will co-ordinate with UWindsor’s KO COVID campaign, which is designed to encourage students to get vaccinated, as well as with the campus COVID screening group and the COVID Screening Platform to identify the drivers for vaccine hesitancy through a survey planned to come out soon.

Identifying reasons why people are hesitant to get the vaccine and developing evidence-based strategies that reflect local needs and key characteristics of target diverse audiences, says Dr. Cavallo-Medved, will enable the team to build and promote a comprehensive vaccine confidence program.

“WE-Spark continues to build upon and strengthen our ongoing relationships with community partners to ensure ongoing public trust and confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, which will in turn bring much needed relief to people of Windsor-Essex,” she says.

—Sara Elliott