Students from St. Clair College and the University of Windsor are spearheading a project aimed at discovering what young adults in Windsor-Essex consider to be the biggest factors in their decisions around COVID-19 vaccinations.
The project has so far found positive conversations about the benefits of vaccination along with increased access to transportation and availability of vaccines are key parts of a young adults decision process.
It's information that could be key for Windsor-Essex as the community sees rapid spread of the infectious Omicron variant with the health unit reporting lower vaccination rates for young adults and areas that are COVID-19 hot spots.
Provincial and national two dose vaccine coverage rates for people 18 to 29 currently sit at 82 per cent, about 7 percentage points higher than the coverage in Windsor-Essex.
"We noticed that with the younger student population the mindset is that we're healthy and if we get COVID we'll be fine," said Nellie Bordignon, a fourth year health and biomedical science student at the University of Windsor working with the team.
"Frankly, that's not true necessarily for everyone."
The Ontario Science Table has shared data that shows while vaccinations may not prevent the spread of the Omicron variant, data shows that two doses continue to offer over 90 per cent protection against hospitalization and intensive care unit admission.
Omicron is being blamed for a surge in hospitalizations that are currently higher than any other point during the pandemic.
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit also tracks vaccination rates by Forward Sortation Address (FSA) which are the first three digits of a postal code.
Early on in the pandemic, the N9A postal code in Windsor's downtown was identified by the province as a hot-spot for COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
It currently has the lowest two dose vaccination rate of any FSA in Windsor-Essex at 62 per cent.
WECHU has prioritized the area with pop-up clinics throughout the pandemic and continues to offer vaccinations through mobile clinics, including one at Water World on Thursday.
The health unit said that the three mass vaccination sites in Windsor-Essex will also accept walk-ins for those who are not vaccinated.
"Any one who needs their first or second dose should be able to get that right away," said WECHU CEO Nicole Dupuis.
The Students Igniting Vaccine Confidence Program has focused outreach efforts on digital webinars and social media campaigns targeting younger adults.
Ruta said they noticed a mistrust in government and mainstream media.
"Having information given to them from the government, they weren't necessarily going to trust or even listen to that information," she said.
"By having a more conversational approach between students to other students, they were more more willing to listen to the information that we were trying to give them to combat those misconceptions.
Another key point was meeting people with empathy, said Nellie Bordignon, a fourth-year student of health and biomedical science.
"I think the thing we emphasize was that we're on your side, no matter what," she said.
"It's mainly acknowledging the fact that when we get vaccinated, it's a community effort to return to that student life in the universe you once all knew."