Inner-city Hamilton health centre refuting COVID-19 vaccine myths


Published December 30, 2022 at 2:26 pm

Recent social media posts from Hamilton community health centre might illustrate the pervasiveness of misinformation around COVID-19, which disproportionately affects the very people that centre serves.

Over the last few days, the Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centrre (HUCCHC) has made several posts trying to counter myths about COVID-19 vaccines, which are a key layer of protection from the virus that is at the root of the three-year-old global pandemic. The HUCCHC is a facility wherein “marginalized people are first,” and as Hamilton’s respiratory diseases dashboard notes, “Evidence shows that racialized community members and lower income community members are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 due to pre-existing health inequities.”

Posts have included statement of facts to refute false claims regarding prior infection, vaccines affecting pregnancy, fertility, and new variants. For instance:

  • Hamilton has officially had nearly 72,000 cases of COVID-19 over the last three years, which is likely a low tally since testing has been less readily available since the start of 2022. The HUCCHC points out that having had COVID-19 does not mean someone does not need a vaccine: “While evidence suggests there is some level of immunity for those who previously had COVID, it is not known how long you are protected from getting COVID-19 again.
  • A claim there is a cause-and-effect between vaccines and the emergence of new variants. Viruses mutate over time, which is why vaccines, including the annual flu shot, have to be updated annually. As HUCCHC puts it: “COVID-19 vaccines do NOT cause new variants of the virus. New variants occur because the virus that causes COVID-19 constantly changes though a natural ongoing process of mutation.”
  • Thirdly, “COVID-19 vaccines do NOT impact fertility, damage the placenta, or increase the risk of pre-term birth or still birth. They safely help the body produce immunity against COVID-19 infection.”

The push comes in the wake of data from the ICES research group that shows that  COVID-19 booster uptake in Hamilton is not as high as other parts in Ontario.

Less than half the population has had at least three doses of the vaccines in two-thirds of neighbourhoods in the city, with 13 of the 19 listed at below 50 per cent for all ages. (Neighbourhoods are forward sortation area, the first three characters of a postal code.) Third-dose uptake ranges as high as 64.55  per cent in the L9H area around Dundas. But it is is only 38.89 in the L8L area in the the north end and central Hamilton, which includes the area where HUCCHC is based.

In a random comparison, the public health unit in Kingston, which includes heavily rural Lennox and Addington County, has third-dose uptake of 55.70 to 71.98 across its six FSAs.

The data from ICES Hamilton children under the age of five is below the provincial average in 12 of the city’s 19 neighbourhoods.  Peer-reviewed research is also indicating that infection can reduce an individual’s count of T-cells, the first line of defence in your immune system.

It is estimated that 650 people in Hamilton have died from COVID-19 since March 2020.

The city’s dashboard shows four people are currently hospitalized due to the virus.

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