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Vaccine hesitancy: What prevents some Albertans from getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

Click to play video: 'Vaccine motivation: Moving hesitant Albertans in the right direction' Vaccine motivation: Moving hesitant Albertans in the right direction
You want the COVID-19 vaccine or you don't: is it really that black and white? There's a portion of the population who needs a bit more motivation before they roll up their sleeves. As Morgan Black reports, that's who AHS is trying to reach – Jun 11, 2021

About 32 per cent of eligible Albertans are still without a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, but a portion of those people aren’t declining because of questions with the science.

This group makes up a population that is known as “vaccine hesitant” — a group Alberta Health Services is now working to get on board for its COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Read more: Doctor says Alberta needs to get creative, bring vaccine to people to boost 1st dose uptake

“We call it hesitancy because it doesn’t mean you’re an anti-vaxxer if you didn’t get your vaccine yet,” medical officer of health for the Edmonton Zone Dr. Grace Salvo said.

Though it’s hard to say exactly who these folks are and what they’re thinking, Salvo said there are three broad categories that make up the hesitant group: people looking for convenience, those searching for confidence in the vaccine itself and those who are simply complacent.

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Read more: Mobile clinic provides COVID-19 vaccines on the go to Edmonton encampments

“Those (are) people who think it doesn’t affect them or it isn’t that serious,” Salvo explained. “The people who think if they get COVID it’s not a big deal.”

Salvo said each group is motivated by something different and AHS is working to target each of them.

Those apathetic to the shot need frequent reminders of how dangerous COVID-19 can be.

“Think about Dr. Hinshaw’s campaigns. We tell people how many deaths are happening every day. We also look at vulnerable populations and work with trusted community physicians.”

Pharmacist Balsam Alabdali said she’s seen a number of people show up for their first dose recently with a clear incentive — the convenience of not quarantining after international travel once fully vaccinated.

Read more: Fully vaccinated Canadian travellers can skip hotel quarantine come July: feds

“They want to travel… they want to get Alberta’s restrictions eased. They have new motivation,” Alabdali said

Salvo said similar incentives of a more normal life is offered at the provincial level.

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“If you think of some of the orders in the previous weeks — it’s less convenient if you’re a close contact to someone who is COVID-19 positive. If you’re fully immunized, you don’t have to quarantine. If you’re partially immunized, you have a shorter quarantine,” Salvo said.

Read more: Three-day COVID-19 vaccination blitz underway at Telus Convention Centre

Others seek the knowledge of those they trust. Alabdali said she has had people ask if she is vaccinated herself.

“They want to see that we, as pharmacists and health care workers, believe in the vaccine. Some of them, after I tell them ‘yes’, will then say ‘Okay. I will get the vaccine.'”

“The safety profile of the vaccine is really excellent,” Salvo said. “And the uptake so far has also been quite excellent.”

Alabdali said if someone calls her pharmacy for their first dose, she acts quickly.

“I don’t want to lose them… because they made the decision late. That means they were hesitant at the beginning.”

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