In the Northwest Territories, only two-thirds of people in their early twenties have chosen to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. A new campaign in the Sahtu aims to address that.
The Sahtu Youth Network says its campaign will target people aged 18-30 in the region and “get them the correct information” from health professionals to address vaccine hesitancy.
Last week, organizers of the campaign published an online survey asking questions about how the pandemic has affected their lives and how they feel about vaccination.
The survey, which is anonymous, was intended to provide a “better look into why they got vaccinated or why they haven’t,” the Sahtu Youth Network said in a news release.
“Is it out of fear, or is there just not enough information out there to answer their questions?”
Now, Sahtu Youth Network coordinator Jasmine Plummer will set to work designing a campaign that aims to tackle the underlying factors driving a lack of vaccination.
Across the NWT, 69 percent of residents aged 20 to 24 are fully vaccinated – the lowest of any demographic. By comparison, more than 90 percent of those aged 70 or older are fully vaccinated, as are more than 80 percent of those aged 40 and up and 75 percent of people aged 18 and 19.
In the Sahtu, 13 percent of residents aged 18 or over are not vaccinated against Covid-19. No detailed age breakdown for the region is provided by the NWT government.
“I understand why a lot of youth would be hesitant,” said Plummer, who feels there still isn’t enough information to fully address concerns expressed by young people. “We want to make sure youth are getting the right information from the right people, and the right advice on what they should be doing to help and support our community.”
Governments have pumped millions of dollars into advertising campaigns and information campaigns related to vaccination. If that didn’t work, what will now be successful in persuading people now is the time to get the vaccine?
Plummer says youth need to hear it from their peers, which will be a feature of the Sahtu Youth Network’s campaign.
“Once we get more information from the youth and the reasons as to why they are or aren’t vaccinated,” she said last week, “we’ll give training opportunities to one to two representatives in each Sahtu region.
“We’ll be making videos of why they got vaccinated, giving them the opportunity to be leaders in their communities.”
The Sahtu was the site of the first wave of the NWT’s fall Covid-19 outbreak, which focused on the communities of Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake.
Plummer, who lives in Norman Wells, thinks the “really big shock” of the outbreak has helped to change some minds about vaccination.
“Everyone was like, OK, this is actually real,” she said. “We had never had an experience up in the Sahtu region with Covid until we had that outbreak. I think it opened their eyes to how vaccination can help other people, especially babies that can’t get vaccinated.
“It brought to light what Covid can do in small communities and how it impacts those communities. This campaign will be one way to really push people to get vaccinated and try to protect their community as well as possible.”