COVID-19 and vaccine hesitancy among younger and older immigrants in Greater Victoria

Smith, Andre | $24,998

British Columbia University of Victoria 2021 SSHRC

As a key factor in ending the pandemic, vaccination for COVID‑19 underscores the issue of vaccine hesitancy and its impact on achieving ‘herd immunity’ to contain the virus. Defined as the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines, vaccine hesitancy entails a continuum of complex attitudes and behaviours that vary across time, culture, place, and vaccines. According to Statistics Canada, only 52% of landed immigrants (newcomers) and 48% of non-landed (permanent residents) immigrants said they would likely get vaccinated for COVID‑19 (Frank and Arim, 2020). This situation is more acute for older immigrants as recent evidence has found that only 40% of visible minority older adults aged 65–80, the majority of whom are foreign-born, expressed an interest in getting a COVID‑19 vaccine (Malani et al., 2020). Vaccine hesitancy among Canadian immigrants, particularly recently arrived ones, may thus significantly interfere with achieving COVID‑19 immunization in this group given that 80% of the population need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity (Anderson et al., 2020). Our community partners at the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS) have experienced first-hand the hesitancy of newcomers to trust the vaccine, and they are seeking strategies to achieve greater equity in vaccination rates. To meet this need, our collaborative research will examine the cultural and contextual influences, individual/group factors, and vaccine-specific factors that inform the decision to vaccinate against COVID‑19 among immigrant adults.

We seek to achieve four objectives: (1) To understand how younger vs. older immigrants view the risks and benefits of vaccination; (2) To identify the sources of information that younger and older immigrants access on vaccines and vaccination; (3) To document the nature and patterns of communication immigrants (both younger and older) have with family members, friends, and members of community organizations concerning vaccines and vaccination: and (4) To collaborate with VIRCS in designing a strategy to address concerns about vaccines in immigrant communities, and thus enhance vaccination equity by reducing potential barriers, improving information sharing, and building trust.

Using a qualitative approach, we aim to capture the unique meanings immigrant adults attach to vaccines and COVID‑19 vaccination in relation to their social, cultural, and familial contexts with a focus on intergenerational patterns of communication. Over 12 months, we will: (1) Conduct a scoping review of the existing literature related to vaccine hesitancy among immigrant populations; (2) Interview 12 younger (19+ to 30s) and 12 older (50+) participants across a range of immigrant groups, as well as within the same family in order to understand vaccine hesitancy from an intergenerational perspective; (3) Transcribe the interviews and conduct a thematic analysis of the interview data; (4) Work with VIRCS to discuss the findings of the analysis and develop a strategy to address the specific concerns around vaccine and vaccination we identify with the study.

Graduate and undergraduate students will be involved in each phase of the project, learning important skills related to community-engaged research on this important health issue. Our knowledge mobilization plan includes both traditional knowledge transfer to academic audiences through peer reviewed papers and conference presentations, as well as the mobilization of findings through Island Health and community-based organizations to develop culturally sensitive communication strategies to build trust and knowledge regarding the benefits of vaccination in immigrant communities.

With funding from the Government of Canada

Please complete this short survey to help us understand our impact. Thank you!

Give Feedback