Dr. Inés Colmegna and Dr. Moshe Ben-Shoshan, members of the Infectious Diseases in Global Health Program at the Research Institute of the MUHC, are conducting studies to address misconceptions about COVID-19 vaccination in adults and in children

Videos from projects led by Drs. Inés Colmegna and Moshe Ben-Shoshan are now available

Thanks to decades of intense background research telescoped into a single year of development, the first vaccines against COVID-19 were fully authorized for use in Canada by the end of 2020. Knowing that this would neither reduce the risk nor eliminate COVID-19 unless most people agreed to be vaccinated, several researchers from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) had the foresight to launch early projects seeking to overcome barriers to vaccination. Drs. Inés Colmegna and Moshe Ben-Shoshan considered uptake in adults and children, respectively, with funding from the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4).

Preparing adults for the COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. Inés Colmegna’s “PROVIDE-A” study in adults adapted measures shown effective to enhance vaccine uptake in non-COVID vaccines. Using knowledge gained from work at the MUHC on influenza vaccine acceptance in people living with rheumatic diseases, her team’s first goal was to identify attitudes, beliefs and behaviours with regard to COVID-19 vaccines. Next, they aimed to engage McGill community members and MUHC healthcare workers to actively promote COVID-19 vaccine uptake. From a survey of 1,793 people, vaccine safety concerns and opposition to mandatory vaccination were found to be the strongest predictors of vaccination refusal.

The findings helped determine optimal ways to address misconceptions and conduct intervention strategies. “Since the COVID-19 vaccines were initially available, there has been an increase in uptake of vaccines by MUHC personnel as well as other groups,” says Dr. Colmegna. “The individual effects of multiple interventions promoting vaccine acceptance, together with reassuring global safety data and an understanding of the risks associated with COVID-19, have encouraged vaccine acceptance.”

View the MUHC video on YouTube prepared by her group: COVID-19 Vaccination: This is our shot

Barriers to vaccinating children

Dr. Moshe Ben-Shoshan, a pediatric allergist and immunologist, anticipated the eligibility of children for vaccination when he conceived the COvid Vaccine Evaluation of Resources and Solutions (COVERS) study with colleagues in Canada and Sweden. The study aimed to identify potential barriers related to vaccine acceptance, distribution and administration in a family context.

Parents of children at the Allergy Clinic at the Montreal Children’s Hospital and at a private allergy office were invited to complete an anonymous online survey on COVID-19 in mid-2021.

“There are still substantial knowledge gaps among parents regarding vaccination of children,” Dr. Ben-Shoshan concludes. “In particular, almost a third of our respondents still had fears to vaccinate when there is a history of allergy, although recommendations by the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology show that this is not a contra-indication.”

View the video on YouTube addressing parental concerns voiced in the study: COVID-19 vaccine for children: an explanatory video

Find out more about these studies soon in the 2021 RI-MUHC Annual Report!