As Ontario slowly creeps toward the goal of having 90 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated against COVID-19, new data shows vaccine rates are stubbornly lagging in some neighbourhoods and among groups of people across the province.
For Dr. Stephen Hwang, a physician and research scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital and the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions, the low vaccine uptake among the homeless population points to a need for outreach beyond just the shelter system, such as visiting supervised drug injection sites.
Among Ontarians who have recently experienced homelessness, only 45 per cent between ages 12 and 64 are fully vaccinated, while 65 per cent over age 65 have had two shots.
“People experiencing homelessness are going to have multiple barriers to getting vaccinated,” Hwang said. They often don’t have internet access, for example, and can’t look up where to go for a shot.
They also may have some hesitation getting vaccinated due to distrust of the health-care system, government or authority figures.
“The other thing would be competing priorities, if someone is figuring out their basic survival needs, getting a vaccination may not be a high priority,” he added.