Vaccine Confidence

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound impact on the health, social and economic well-being of people in Canada and around the world. It has led to many significant changes in our daily lives. Vaccinating the Canadian population with safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines is essential for fully re-opening the Canadian economy and a return to “normalcy”.

Ensuring all Canadians have access to evidenced-based information on the importance of vaccination is a challenging yet crucial goal. Many Canadians, including those historically underserved and marginalized by public health services, and those negatively affected by a range of social determinants of health (SDOH) including gender, ethnicity, occupation, homelessness, and incarceration, may require additional support to help them understand, have confidence in, and receive available vaccines.

The Vaccine & Immunization Peer Training Program and Best Practices for Social Housing project presents an opportunity to identify and address longstanding systemic barriers to vaccination among women who have experienced interpersonal/systemic violence – including acceptance and uptake of vaccines beyond those that prevent COVID-19.

The beginning of our vaccine confidence work – our CEO leading by example

On January 15th, 2021, Atira’s campaign to address vaccine hesitancies and encourage staff to get their vaccines was started. An email was sent out that day with an encouragement and supportive message from our CEO to all Atira staff. For the email body, please read below:

Hi everyone!

Good news to start the weekend, some very happy staff and residents were vaccinated yesterday, including me (see pics below). This article captures, I think, the feeling most of us had getting the vaccination: Front-line workers are feeling a surprising COVID-19 vaccine side effect – hope:

I heard one of the Sereena’s staff telling the public health nurses yesterday how delighted and surprised she was to be getting vaccinated yesterday – words to the effect of “I had no idea when I started my shift that I would get to do this today!”

As many of you are aware, a handful of shelter staff received vaccinations last week and reported having a sore arm for a few days and feeling tired, but no other side effects – similar to a flu vaccination. Both effects disappeared within a few days.

A few poignant quotes from the Globe article:

  • “It lightens my heart to know that when patients are coughing on me, despite having the [personal protective equipment] on, I’m not going to bring it home to my son.:
  • “In some ways, not to sound cheesy or anything, but it felt like I was given a gift.”

Hand’s up to everyone who showed up – this truly does inspire hope. And please rest assured, plans are moving forward to expand vaccine days to SROs and supportive housing programs and we will continue to advocate to get all of our front-line staff vaccinated as priority. We are in daily communication with Vancouver Coastal Health and will continue to send updates as we get them. Communication with Fraser Health has been less consistent, but we are reaching out to them every day or two and pushing to have Shimai and Little’s included in the first round, followed by transition houses, which are considered by health to be lower risk.

In other good news, COVID cases in BC appear to be plummeting. I am going to leave it here for today, as I am anxious to see what numbers next week look like, two weeks after New Year’s Eve. In the meantime, a happy read: B.C. sees ‘impressive plummet’ in COVID-19 case average: infectious disease expert:

Information on COVID vaccinations here:, and attached.

More next week and in the meantime, please wash your hands, keep your distance (wear a mask if you can’t) and stay home if you are sick!


– Janice Abbott

Chief Executive Officer, Atira Group of Women Serving Agencies