Understanding attitudes and beliefs toward the COVID‑19 vaccines among youth with mental illness

Buchman, Daniel | $143,428

Ontario Centre for Addiction and Mental Health 2021 CIHR Operating Grant

Background: People with mental illness (MI) have increased risk of contracting, and dying from, COVID‑19 compared to the general population. Possible explanations include behavioural and structural factors (e.g., living in congregate settings). While COVID‑19 vaccine uptake rates for people with mental illness is lacking, influenza vaccination uptake is generally lower than the general Canadian population. COVID‑19 vaccines are safe and effective, yet studies show that 11% to 18% of Canadians are hesitant. Black Canadians, Indigenous peoples, newcomers, and youth tend to have higher vaccine hesitancy and are more likely to experience social and structural barriers to accessing vaccinations. Youth between the ages of 16 and 29 are particularly vaccine-hesitant, with some of the lowest vaccination rates in Canada to date. Therefore, youth with MI may require more tailored interventions to increase uptake of COVID‑19 vaccines. Research Questions: 1) What are the beliefs and attitudes of youth with MI towards COVID‑19 vaccines, including acceptance of vaccines? 2) What are youths’ preferred method(s) of receiving and searching for information about COVID‑19 vaccines? Methods: We will conduct qualitative semi-structured interviews inquiring about youths’ information needs, attitudes toward COVID‑19 vaccines, and trust towards the healthcare system and vaccine manufacturers. We will also explore perceived severity of having COVID-19; susceptibility to developing COVID-19; benefits of, and barriers to, the vaccine and cues to action. Transcripts will be thematically analyzed. Anticipated outcomes/impact: This co-designed project aims to promote vaccine uptake among youth with MI by 1) identifying recommendations for developing targeted, evidence-based public health campaigns, with a focus on COVID vaccines; 2) co-creating and piloting a vaccine campaign with youth with MI; and 3) develop clinical tools (e.g., clinical conversation guides) tailored for this population.

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