Reducing COVID‑19 Vaccine Hesitancy in Canadian Immigrants

Gold, Ian J | $335,734

Quebec McGill University 2021 CIHR Operating Grant

The roll-out of COVID‑19 vaccines in Canada and elsewhere has created considerable optimism that the worst days of the pandemic are behind us and that life will soon return to normal. While some optimism is justified by the promise of vaccines, the extent of the optimism is not yet warranted. Apart from the risks associated with COVID‑19 variants, vaccine hesitancy remains a profound challenge to public health. Reducing vaccine hesitancy is likely to require different approaches for different communities, but we do not have a sufficiently nuanced understanding of differences in vaccine attitudes across the country. First- and second-generation immigrants constitute nearly 40% of the Canadian population, but we have inadequate data about vaccine hesitancy in immigrant groups or data about the differences in immigrant communities as a function of generational status, ethnicity, or sex. A deeper and more nuanced picture of vaccine hesitancy in immigrants is thus essential to ending the pandemic. Vaccine hesitancy has traditionally been characterized as a consequence of the “war on science,” including the “death of expertise.” There is considerable evidence, however, that this view is mistaken. Vaccine hesitancy actually reflects a crisis of trust, but we know very little about the attitudes of immigrants regarding public institutions or about the effect of differences of generational status, ethnicity, or sex on these attitudes. Improving vaccine uptake in Canada will not be achieved by giving Canadians a reason to believe in public health messaging regarding COVID‑19 but by giving them a reason to trust the messengers, and a successful public health approach will require targeting messaging to match the attitudes of a particular community. The question of how to do that for diverse immigrant communities is the focus of this project.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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