EDITOR'S NOTE: Incorrect word in the sub-head corrected from "with" to "without". Also, a typo on a name correction for Dr. Sandra Dorman.
Researchers from Laurentian University in Sudbury will soon be travelling to workplaces across Northern Ontario to find out why many Northerners have not yet decided to get the COVID-19 vaccine and to "encourage confidence" in the vaccine programs.
Canada's Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) has provided a $50,000 grant to Laurentian's Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health (CROSH) to carry out the research.
“Northern Ontario has a unique culture, and the concerns and questions Northern Ontarians have, may not reflect the concerns of other Ontarians," said Dr. Sandra Dorman, the director of CROSH.
"Sharing and exchanging health and safety information with people living in Northern Ontario is a core mission of CROSH; we are excited to reconnect with communities and better understand their concerns and choices,” she added.
Dorman said in an interview Tuesday that the research won't just mean visits to communities per se, as much as it will involve visiting industrial sites and other workplaces to gather data.
"Actually, we were communicating with the individual communities, all of the health units and leaders from all of the different communities to try and identify what are their individual needs," said Dorman.
"What are the health teams hearing from their community members that are the primary barriers to getting vaccinated or are the reasons they're giving for not choosing to get vaccinated?"
Dorman said some smaller or remote communities might have seen very few cases of COVID-19 so far and might think it won't affect them. Other communities, with a large number of younger people, might not be worried about COVID, thinking they're young enough and strong enough to handle the disease. And so they don't bother getting vaccinated.
"And so what we're trying to do right now is identify the themes that come out across Northern Ontario, but also within each specific region. And then we're developing materials to address those themes. So that when we go to the communities, we can start the conversation. And, just try and engage with them to have the discussion," said Dorman.
She said it is not the intention of the CROSH researchers to create conflict or put anyone down for their hesitancy. Dorman said she believes there is a feeling among a lot of Northerners who have a real desire to talk to people in a neutral way to get information on vaccines.
"But I think a lot of people are not not sure who to talk to about it, because they don't want to get into community arguments, right," said Dorman.
She said the CROSH team will provide information, infographics and video presentations in the various venues they visit. People will be encouraged to take information home with them or to share it with friends and co-workers. Dorman said information will be presented in a way that feels less conflicting for community members and hopefully done in a way that will answer questions people have.
To that end, Dorman said the CROSH researchers are still in the process of finding workplaces in Northern communities that wish to be part of the research. Dorman said the team is in the process of developing the itinerary for September. Anyone interested in having the team visit their workplace, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org by email.
Dorman said the program is called Community Immunity and is geared toward the long-term protection of Northern towns and cities.
So there, you know, I'd like to play off of this concept of Northern communities supporting and protecting each other, so that we can all be healthy," said Dorman.
"And I really believe that, particularly our strongest members in our community, need to get vaccinated to protect our vulnerable members in our community," she added.
Dorman said not everyone can get vaccinated and there are many residents who are legitimately vulnerable. She said they need to have protection from the larger community.
"I actually think one of the most powerful messages to convince people to get vaccinated is to remind them that you're not necessarily doing it for you. You're doing it for your community. I love my community. I think most Northerners love their community. And so let's support each other. Do it for each other," said Dorman.
Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com. He covers health care in Northern Ontario.
Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com