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Immunization Awareness

How Immunize Canada is Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy and Ensuring Equitable Access

Antonella Pucci

Manager of Immunization Initiatives, Canadian Public Health Association

Is Canada overcoming vaccine hesitancy? Learn more about how Immunize Canada is doing to ensure Canadian’s are staying up-to-date.

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Could you provide insights into any significant shifts in public perception or attitudes towards vaccinations in Canada, and how your organization is addressing potential challenges or misconceptions?

Over the past couple of years, we have seen a decline in vaccine confidence and uptake in Canada.  The COVID-19 pandemic left many people feeling fatigued from lockdowns and restrictions, and from hearing about vaccines. The influx of misinformation contributed to more skepticism around vaccines. Interruptions in immunization programming during the COVID-19 pandemic caused recommended and routine immunization rates to drop. While we are now seeing immunization rates bounce back, we still have some distance to go in increasing vaccine uptake, especially in the face of lower vaccine confidence. Unfortunately, the pandemic’s aftermath of vaccine fatigue and misinformation is still extremely prevalent, despite the overwhelming evidence that vaccines are rigorously tested, safe, and effective – and the best way to protect against a number of potentially serious diseases.

Immunize Canada is the only national coalition in Canada with the mandate of promoting the benefits of immunization. We help bolster vaccine confidence in Canada through education, health promotion, and advocacy. Immunize Canada produces evidence-based and relevant educational materials on immunization both for the public and for health professionals; these include pocket guides, factsheets, social media creatives, and videos, to name a few. To tackle vaccine misinformation, we post a “Myth-busting Monday” post every week on our social media pages to help debunk vaccination myths. We promote our educational materials through the various immunization campaigns we undertake each year, such as National Immunization Awareness Week (NIAW) and National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), where the focus is on amplifying the benefits and safety of recommended vaccines for all ages. We feature information about how to be protected against specific seasonal vaccine-preventable diseases and we advocate, alongside coalition member organizations, for public health policies to contribute to increasing vaccine confidence and uptake.

For NIAW 2024, our theme is “Protect your future. Get Immunized!”, highlighting the importance of staying up to date on recommended vaccinations so that everyone can have the chance to live healthier lives protected against preventable diseases.

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What steps can Canadians take to ensure they are up to date with immunizations?

The best thing Canadians can do to ensure they are up to date with their immunizations is by talking to their doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or local public health authority. They will be able to help you determine which vaccines you need to get caught up.

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How have you been working to ensure equitable access to vaccinations across various regions and communities within Canada, particularly in underserved or remote areas?

Equitable access to vaccination across various regions and communities in Canada is an ongoing priority for Immunize Canada. We recognize the importance of people seeing themselves in our educational resources, so we are deliberate in our efforts to ensure that diverse representation of people is reflected in our resources. We consult with different equity-deserving groups to help ensure that the content and imagery included in our resources represents different ethnicities, ages, religions, genders, and abilities. Diverse representation also extends to translating our resources into multiple languages other than English and French, so that they are more accessible. For National Immunization Awareness Week (NIAW) 2024, we translated our factsheet, Vaccines in Pregnancy: What you need to know, into 12 languages in addition to English and French – the largest translation project we have ever undertaken.

Another goal of Immunize Canada is to create more tailored vaccine messaging for specific communities. We understand people in Canada have differing information needs when it comes to vaccines and immunization, and that we cannot rely on a one-size-fits-all approach. This is especially true for equity-deserving groups who have historically faced discrimination within the healthcare sector. By implementing tailored messaging, we hope that everyone will be able to access vaccine information that resonates with them and helps build their vaccine confidence.

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What are the priority areas of focus for vaccination campaigns in 2024, and what proactive measures are being taken to mitigate potential risks?

Immunize Canada believes that no one should be left behind when it comes to protecting their health and that of their families, friends and communities. Many of our vaccination campaigns focus on encouraging people from all walks of life to get caught up on their recommended and routine vaccinations. Since immunization rates are still not as high as they should be, post-pandemic, we want to help ensure that people across Canada have the information and confidence to get caught up on the vaccines they need.

The relentless spread of incorrect information about vaccines will continue to be a substantial barrier to people feeling confident about getting vaccinated. We plan to keep addressing vaccine misinformation in our campaigns to help improve vaccine confidence. We recognize that a lot of work is needed to repair and increase confidence in (and acceptance of) recommended vaccinations.

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