A medical division that serves patients in the Tri-Cities and New Westminster is $100,000 richer after winning a federal competition to combat COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.
Today (Feb. 8), the Fraser Northwest Division of Family Practice was named the grand prize winner in the Vaccine Community Innovation Challenge for its Physician on a Mission, a series of videos — in English, Korean, Farsi, Cantonese and Arabic — promoting the COVID-19 vaccine.
At a virtual news conference, Ron McKinnon, MP for Coquitlam–Port Coquitlam (Liberal), said 299 projects were submitted for the challenge that aims to boost vaccine rates across Canada.
A total of 20 were shortlisted to receive $25,000, while 113 projects got grants ranging between $5,000 and $10,000.
"Promoting vaccinations saves lives," McKinnon said. "Vaccination is one of the most important things we can do to protect ourselves from the severe outcome of the COVID disease."
Currently, about 88 per cent of Canadians have received at least one dose, he said.
Dr. Jennifer Yun, a Coquitlam maternity doctor with the Fraser Northwest Division of Family Practice who also works at Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody, said the award "is a surprise and a great honour for our group."
Yun said Fraser Northwest physicians stepped up in March 2020 when the virus shut down the province, setting up a COVID-19 assessment centre and virtual care for patients, while also addressing vaccine hesitancy.
Last summer, the team — along with two summer students — launched the Physician on a Mission campaign via YouTube to speak to patients who fear the jab.
Yun said Dr. Kathy Jones’ one-minute video explaining the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine to women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or expecting to have a baby in the future has been viewed more than 82,000 times.
“The response was overwhelmingly positive,” Yun said of their video efforts, adding that the $100,000 prize will be used for future outreach to support public health care.
Asked by the Tri-City News about why some pregnant women don’t want to get the COVID-19 shot, Yun said her female patients are in a vulnerable time in their lives and "want to do the best for their babies" by not exposing them to anything external that they feel could potentially harm their unborn child.
Some other reasons that she’s heard include familial pressures. As a result, Yun said, physicians spend time explaining to each patient what’s in the vaccine and its benefits.
And the videos help to further spread the message, she said. "People are looking for the best information."
The Fraser Northwest Division of Family Practice is one of 35 divisions in B.C. that make up the Divisions of Family Practice, an initiative of the General Practice Services Committee — a partnership between the Doctors of B.C. and the provincial government.
Currently, it has more than 400 members who provide primary care services in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Anmore, Belcarra and New Westminster.