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U of T students, faculty create resource to help Scarborough seniors book COVID-19 vaccines

Students, faculty and staff at U of T Scarborough have created an online resource focused on vaccine eligibility and dates for at-risk community members in Scarborough (photo by Cole Burston via Getty Images)

A new project by students, faculty and staff at the University of Toronto Scarborough is making it easier for seniors to register for COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

The project’s participants, in the department of health and society (DHS), recently curated a list of resources about vaccine eligibility and dates for at-risk community members in Scarborough.

The idea was to make information about vaccine registration easily accessible by assembling it in a single, convenient spot.

Michelle Silver
Michelle Silver (Photo by Don Campbell)

“The biggest challenge for everyone has been vaccine supply and communication,” says Michelle Silver, an associate professor and acting chair of DHS at U of T Scarborough.

“We heard that it was difficult to find the link to register [and] sometimes folks registered but were turned away for lack of supply. Other times, concerns arose because it was hard to get to a particular vaccination site.”

The resource includes references about phone and online appointment registration in Scarborough and neighbouring communities, portals to determine eligibility and nearby vaccination sites, as well as transportation options and vaccine safety information.

Silver explains that, as Scarborough has one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the province, students, faculty and staff felt a responsibility to help at-risk community members overcome challenges, including registration, language and transportation barriers.

“As a department, we are committed to advocating for the health of the Scarborough community and for a safe and equitable pandemic response among all Ontarians,” Silver says.

When Saadia Khan’s class was encouraged to share the link with friends and family, she immediately thought about her grandparents. Both suffer from chronic illness and with an essential trip to Pakistan coming up due to health reasons, she say getting their first doses was a priority.

“With COVID-19 and now the different variants, it was a huge relief for them,” says Khan, who just completed her final year in psychology and health studies at U of T Scarborough.

For fourth-year student Meryl Rae Villacastin, the project was a way to navigate ever-changing information about COVID-19 vaccinations and stay up-to-date on the latest health and safety updates.

“There are always new updates about booking for your vaccine,” says Villacastin, who is majoring in health science and political science.

“The opportunity is a very helpful way to empower others by helping them navigate the vaccination registration process and increase their awareness on their potential eligibility to register.”

Guiding others to find accurate information about where, when and how to get vaccinated, along with other trusted news sources to turn to, is something Villacastin says she’ll continue to do to help family, friends and community members.

“I’ve loved participating in this project,” Villacastin says. “It made me feel like I can help keep the community safe. I want to be a resource that people can come to, and this opportunity has allowed me to do my part during this critical time.”

Khan, meanwhile, says that sharing the resource list and helping her family register felt like taking a step towards the end of the pandemic.

“For me, it’s personal,” Khan says. “I want my loved ones to be safe and my grandparents who are at-risk to feel relief, and to at least get the vaccination process started.”