Fighting Covid-19 Vaccine Hesitancy in Canada’s Francophone Minority Communities

University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine’s Office of Francophone Affairs will be conducting research aimed at equipping healthcare professionals in French-language minority settings with resources to aid their patients make informed decisions regarding COVID-19 vaccines. A grant from the Public Health Agency of Canada will allow the University of Ottawa group to conduct this research.

“We know that Francophones in minority settings do not share the same positive outcomes as communities living in majority settings. Language barriers negatively impact patients’ abilities to access quality care,” says study leader Dr. Manon Denis-Leblanc, Vice-Dean of Francophone Affairs in the Faculty of Medicine, who is also a family physician at Hôpital Montfort. “We need to be able to effectively communicate with this population and address their apprehensions so they can make informed decisions about their care.”

Evidence-based studies have shown that minority groups in Canada – whether determined by racial or language profile – are shown to be disproportionately impacted in the delivery of healthcare, particularly when it comes to urgent or critical needs. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, studies have demonstrated these communities are experiencing higher rates of sickness and morbidity than other communities.

The project comprises two streams: a community study aimed at better understanding beliefs and attitudes about COVID-19 vaccines within minority Francophone communities, including French-speaking immigrants; and culturally appropriate training, resources, and tools to equip healthcare professionals to better serve French-speaking patients and fight misinformation.

Through systematic reviews and community surveys, researchers hope to gather enough data “to understand why Francophones might be vaccine hesitant and/or why they might agree with vaccines, to understand their beliefs when it comes to vaccines, their intentions about being fully vaccinated and why,” says study co-leader Dr. Sylvain Boet, Associate Dean of Francophone Affairs. “This information will allow us to build professionals’ capacity when communicating with their patients about vaccines.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada awarded the Faculty of Medicine’s Francophone Affairs $375,000 through its Immunization Partnership Fund for the project, which is in effect until March 2023.

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