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Levelling the vaccination playing field: Region updates efforts to reduce cultural barriers to vaccination

The Region of Waterloo hopes its new COVID-19 vaccination bus will help to bring doses directly to underserved and priority neighbourhoods and communities
Region of Waterloo Public Health 1
File photo of main office of Region of Waterloo Public Health

The Region of Waterloo says it continues to work to level the COVID-19 vaccination playing field, endeavouring to ensure equity is at the forefront of the local vaccination effort.

The goal is to make sure vaccine clinics better represent the diverse needs of the community.

"Things like including diverse healthcare professionals at clinics who represent the community, offering culturally-safe care at all clinics which has required us to provide orientation and training to clinic staff, removing barriers based on language and accessibility [...], transportation barriers were removed," said Fauzia Baig, Equity and Anti-Racism Advisor for the Region of Waterloo during the Region's weekly COVID-19 update.

Baig says, as with any community, the region has also worked to address misinformation.

"By organizing vaccine information sessions with community partners in various languages and with diverse healthcare professionals, and ensuring tailored and diverse communications are available," Baig said.

She says those efforts include running radio spots on ethnic and multi-lingual radio stations, community-specific information sheets, translated resources, and numerous videos.

From the start, Baig says the approach has been to use both data and community feedback to bring vaccine information and clinics to communities using what she calls a 'co-planning model'.

"To do this, we have focused on building relationships and trust by continuing ongoing communications and conversations to understand the changing community needs," she said. "This trust is built over time when we continue to listen and remain open to feedback and commit to doing things differently based on what we've heard."

Most recently, the Region says it continues to work with community partners and groups to offer new and innovative opportunities for people to get vaccinated, including the new mobile vaccination bus.

"This bus is now bringing vaccines to residents and is another way we are continuing to work on reducing barriers that residents may face in accessing the vaccine," Baig said.

She says the bus is aimed at bringing the vaccine directly to underserved and priority neighbourhoods, setting up temporarily at sites like community centres, housing complexes, markets, and other frequented spots.

No appointments are required and up to six people can be vaccinated on the bus at any point in time.

"As we continue to move forward, I want to acknowledge a lot of progress has been made to date," said Baig. "But there still is more work to be done requiring ongoing commitment and an openness to work in ways that we may not have in the past in order to continue working with communities to bring vaccines to them in ways that meet their needs."

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