With rising case counts in much of Canada, vaccinating Canadians against COVID-19 and its variants is more pressing than ever. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has always viewed addressing vaccine hesitancy as a major priority, long before the days of COVID. The Agency is currently accepting proposals from community groups for campaigns that promote vaccine confidence. 

Twenty finalists will receive $25 000 to create and implement their campaign, with one winner receiving a grand prize of $100 000. 

Based on research conducted between February and March of 2021, between 72 and 82 per cent of Canadians intend to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The government has identified specific reasons for vaccine hesitancy among the remaining population. Some factors include: safety concerns about the vaccine, low perceived risk of disease, and convenience in getting the vaccine. 

People from historically underserved communities tend to report higher levels of vaccine hesitancy. Hesitant individuals tend to receive supporting information from social media sources, much of which may be inaccurate. 

PHAC has recognized that combatting vaccine hesitancy is best accomplished through the community. Government sources are often not trusted in certain communities, and reaching these individuals on a grassroots level is critically important. 

“This challenge seeks to harness the creativity and innovation that exists in communities across Canada to help Canadians accept a safe and proven COVID-19 vaccine and continue adhering to public health measures,” explained the PHAC.  

The belief is that enabling as many Canadians as possible to be vaccinated through community initiatives will be central to the long-term management of COVID-19. The resources developed as a result of these initiatives will further help contribute to addressing misformation about the vaccine. 

Misinformation and disinformation continue to be a major challenge for PHAC, and the goal is to promote public confidence in vaccines. Health Canada and PHAC work directly with experts in vaccine hesitancy and behavioural science in developing public education campaigns that address the unique needs of diverse populations. 

“Openness, transparency, and access to reliable information for the public will continue to be key components of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine public education plan,” they explained. 

These openness and transparency goals have led to other large-scale initiatives by the government. They include the www.canada.ca/covid-vaccine information page, weekly media briefings on the latest vaccine news, regular social media updates, multilingual vaccine resources, and educating healthcare providers to answer patient questions. 

PHAC says they are committed to working with many partners, including provinces and territories, professional associations, and multicultural and Indigenous organizations to equip Canadians with the factual information they need to make informed vaccination decisions for themselves and their families. 

Due to overwhelming interest, the closing date to submit a proposal has been extended to April 15, 2021 at 3 p.m. EST.