Mayor John Tory says the city has awarded $5.5 million in grants to non-profit organizations to encourage vulnerable people in communities across Toronto to get vaccinated.
The grants will enable the organizations to carry out “outreach and engagement” activities in 140 neighbourhoods with a focus on areas deemed hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the money, the organizations have already created 14 of what the city calls “Vaccine Engagement Teams.” A total of 155 community agencies are leading the teams. The focus of the teams is to reduce barriers to COVID-19 vaccines and increase vaccine uptake.
Each team is made up of a number of local community agencies that will conduct outreach and provide support to residents in keeping with the languages and cultures of each area.
“We know that there are community groups on the ground, in neighbourhoods, across the city, that can help with the vaccination effort,” Tory told reporters at a city hall briefing on Monday.
“In short, in these targeted areas, their job is to help us get people vaccinated by doing whatever it takes to both eliminate reluctance and hesitation and to provide supports such that between the two, everyone is comfortable and supported getting a vaccination.”
The vaccine engagement teams are expected to carry out their work from now until March 2022 and to play a role in the Phase 2 and 3 of the Ontario government’s vaccination plan.© Evan Mitsui/CBC Two health-care workers from Humber River Hospital do paperwork at the TARIC Centre, Toronto and Region Islamic Congregation, on Apr. 7, 2021, as part of a community outreach program to get seniors vaccinated at their place of worship.
Tory said the teams will recruit 280 resident ambassadors to act as “points of contact” for residents. He described the ambassadors as “local and trusted leaders” in communities across the city.
The city added in a news release: “These multi-lingual ambassadors will work with community agencies to reach out and make connections in their areas, and provide information about and connections to vaccination options.
“They will be trained by behavioural scientists on information about COVID-19 vaccines, common vaccine concerns and other COVID-19 risk reduction strategies, and will act as local contacts for residents.”
Work has begun to encourage vaccinations
Tory said work is already underway to overcome vaccine hesitancy.
For example, he said the Ghanaian Canadian Association in north Etobicoke is holding COVID-19-related educational workshops conducted by doctors on such topics as physical distancing, vaccine efficacy and vaccine conspiracy misinformation.
The Sunshine for Seniors Centres in the city’s downtown east, meanwhile, is sharing COVID-19 health promotion messages through virtual programs. The organization has also created a a vaccination support line to help older adults with the vaccination booking process, he added.
“We’re working with community organizations that residents know and trust. And we will utilize those relationships to increase vaccine uptake,” Tory said.© Evan Mitsui/CBC A health care worker directs a Toronto resident to a COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic at the East York Town Centre mall in the city’s Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood on March 24, 2021.
In a news release on Monday, the city said its 140 neighbourhoods have been grouped into 10 geographic clusters, or areas, and at least one team in each cluster has been awarded funding to do outreach work.
Each team has a lead organization that will administer the funds, with money distributed to between 10 and 20 community agencies within their geographic cluster, the city said.
The city says six of the 10 geographic clusters have been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19. As a result, community agencies in these clusters will receive an increased amount of $500,000 per area.
Two more clusters have been added to focus on newcomer and Black resilience outreach, and have each received $400,000. The newcomer cluster engagement team is led by FCJ Refugee Centre and Jane Finch Community and Family Centre, while the Black resilience engagement team is led by TAIBU Community Health Centre.
Indigenous agencies and groups will receive separate funding of $1 million to allow them to create their own approach to community engagement and mobilization, the city said.
9 city-run vaccination clinics fully booked this week
Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, general manager of emergency management, told reporters on Monday that the city’s nine mass vaccination clinics are running seven days a week and all are fully booked.
Pegg said it takes nearly 1,400 people to run the clinics and they are able to administer about 56,000 doses every week.
“Our clinics continue to run smoothly, with little to no wait for those who arrive at their scheduled appointment times. Most people are checked in, vaccinated and checked out in about 30 minutes,” he said.
To date, 758,882 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Toronto.