This project is part of the COVENANT Study: COVID-19 Cohort Study of People Experiencing Homelessness in Toronto.
Infection with COVID-19 poses a serious threat to the health of people without stable housing and the communities in which they live. Rates of physical and mental health conditions are higher among homeless or precariously housed populations, which can make contracting the virus even more detrimental. Those who live in congregate settings are at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 because of shared living spaces, crowding, difficulty achieving physical distancing, and, in shelters, high population turnover. More than 235,000 people in Canada experience homelessness each year.
Vaccines have proven effective in reducing transmission of COVID-19. While we do not yet know current vaccination rates of people without stable housing in Canada, rates of vaccination among this population tend to be lower than among the general population, due to the barriers in accessing healthcare that this population faces. People without stable housing often need to prioritize competing survival needs, and there are inadequate public health campaigns for reaching this group.
About the Study
We are conducting interviews with individuals staying in emergency shelters and COVID-19 physical distancing hotels in Toronto, with the goal of understanding reasons for COVID-19 vaccine uptake and hesitancy in this population. We will also explore their views of the vaccine and other ways they are keeping themselves safe. We will then invite them to propose solutions and strategies for making vaccination more accessible to them.
Our findings from this research will inform and support the strategy and efforts of those working in the community to protect people without stable housing, such as the Toronto Shelter Network and governments. Our results will also inform future vaccination efforts for people without stable housing. By asking participants for their guidance on strategies to reduce barriers to vaccine uptake, we are prioritizing the knowledge of people without stable housing, which will help make vaccination strategies more effective and responsive to their needs. By partnering with Shelter Support and Housing Administration, as well as Anishnawbe Health Toronto, we will be able to feed results and strategies directly to those coordinating vaccination campaigns across the city.