New study targets vaccine confidence for Indigenous youth

Researchers are taking a good, long look at vaccine confidence among Indigenous youth thanks to a new study through the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM).

"Lots of people get vaccinated, but just like in other areas, it's young people and youth who are the ones that are just a little less vaccinated -- and amongst Indigenous people, but also in mainstream, as well," said Marion Maar, one of the two principal investigators,.

Maar and family physician Dr. Maurianne Reade are looking at Indigenous youth specifically.

Reade said Indigenous people make up a large portion of the Island's population and there's a lot that needs to be understood.

"Peoples' ideas and motivations and what really inspire them to be involved, maybe as receiving a vaccine or even getting involved in vaccine trials," Reade told CTV News.

"For that reason … we are involving an Indigenous theatre group … Debajehmujig of Manitoulin Island, to try and figure out how we can best engage with youth," added Maar.

The researchers plan to use surveys and theatre-based engagement sessions to better understand lived experiences.

They're starting with the Island and if other partners come on board, they'll then expand. But for now it's got the support of local leadership.

"It's these pieces that have that local content that start to build the trust amongst communities because these are physicians that we trust locally," said Chief Linda Debassige of M'Chigeeng First Nation.

Debassige wrote a letter in support of the study.

"This team will demonstrate, through research, their ability to provide effective strategies that can be used across Canada that can be used to address vaccine hesitancy and improve confidence," she wrote.

The work is being funded through the Canadian Institutes for Health Research over the next two years, at $200,000.

They plan to share findings with Indigenous communities and with the public health sector across the country.