University of Waterloo researchers find ‘vaccination deserts’ in rural, northern parts of Ontario

University of Waterloo researchers find ‘vaccination deserts’ in rural, northern parts of Ontario

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University of Waterloo researchers find ‘vaccination deserts’ in rural, northern parts of Ontario's Profile


The University of Waterloo says researchers from the school have identified “vaccination deserts” in which residents have little or no access to pharmacist-administered vaccinations.

A study conducted by researchers from the school working in partnership with others from Laurentian University found that the “vaccination deserts” exist in northern and rural parts of Ontario, often where there is a predominant number of residents who speak French.

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It used provincial and federal data to establish where pharmacists are located in connection to the population as it concluded that there was a dearth of pharmacists trained to provide vaccinations in these areas.

“Our biggest realization is that there are many communities that do not have local access to a pharmacy at all,” stated Dr. Sherilyn Houle, co-author of the study.

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“While medication can be delivered remotely and virtual care can be used for offsite counselling, access to vaccinations will need a more innovative approach.”

The school points out that as the government turns to pharmacies to provide vaccinations, it will make it more difficult for people living in rural or northern communities to get access.

“Reaching these communities of individuals will require innovative ideas, including mobile vaccination clinics and additional training for pharmacists located in these areas,” Houle said.

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“We have to recognize where the gaps remain and plan accordingly to bring seasonal services to provide for hard-to-reach communities and hopefully encourage practicing pharmacists in those areas to become trained in vaccination, if they haven’t already.”

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The study found that in areas where at least 25 per cent of the population speaks French, there is a lack of French-speaking pharmacists to serve them.

“The landscape has changed drastically in these past few years, and a shift has occurred where pharmacies are becoming more relied upon as vaccination providers. However, pharmacists alone can’t meet these needs for all communities. Without a pharmacy, many services cannot be provided,” Houle said.


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