‘Helpful way to empower others’: Faculty, students develop resource to help Scarborough seniors book their vaccines
A new project by faculty and students in the Department of Health and Society (DHS) at U of T Scarborough is making it easier for seniors to register for COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
Students, faculty and staff in DHS recently curated the list of resources when vaccine eligibility opened for at-risk community members in Scarborough. The idea is to make information about vaccine registration accessible in one, convenient spot.
“The biggest challenge for everyone has been vaccine supply and communication,” says Michelle Silver, associate professor and acting chair of DHS at U of T Scarborough.
“We heard that it was difficult to find the link to register, sometimes folks registered but were turned away for lack of supply. Other times, concerns arose because it was hard to get to a particular vaccination site.”
The resource includes sources in Scarborough and neighbouring communities about phone and online appointment registration, portals to determine eligibility and nearby vaccination sites, as well as transportation options and vaccine safety information.
Silver explains that as Scarborough has one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the province, students, faculty and staff felt a responsibility to help at-risk community members overcome challenges, from registration to information and language and transportation barriers.
“As a Department, we are committed to advocating for the health of the Scarborough community and for a safe and equitable pandemic response among all Ontarians,” Silver says.
Breaking through the technology barrier
When Saadia Khan’s class was encouraged to share the link with friends and family, she immediately thought about her grandparents. Both suffer from chronic illness and with an essential trip to Pakistan coming up due to health reasons, getting their first dose was a priority.
“With COVID-19 and now the different variants, it was a huge relief for them,” says Khan, who just completed her final year in psychology and health studies at U of T Scarborough.
A barrier for her grandparents was also technology itself. While Khan experienced some trouble finding them an appointment, she says being there to help was of great comfort for all involved.
Khan’s grandparents were vaccinated a few days after the initial booking process. Recently, her father received his first dose.
An opportunity to empower others
For fourth-year student Meryl Rae Villacastin, getting involved with the project is a way to navigate ever-changing information about COVID-19 vaccinations and stay up-to-date on the latest health and safety updates.
“There are always new updates about booking for your vaccine,” says Villacastin, who is double majoring in health science and political science.
“The opportunity is a very helpful way to empower others, by helping them navigate the vaccination registration process and increase their awareness on their potential eligibility to register.”
Guiding others to find accurate information about where, when and how to get vaccinated, along with other trusted news sources to turn to, is something Villacastin says she’ll continue to do to help family, friends and community members.
“I’ve loved participating in this project. It made me feel like I can help keep the community safe,” Villacastin says. “I want to be a resource people can come to and this opportunity has allowed me to do my part during this critical time.”
As someone who, like many, has been overwhelmed by rising cases in the province, Khan says that everything from sharing the resource list to helping family register is a step to getting back to normal.
“For me, it’s personal,” Khan says. “I want my loved ones to be safe and my grandparents who are at-risk to feel relief and at least get the vaccination process started.”