The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated systemic health inequities and disproportionally impacted older adults and residents in racialized urban neighbourhoods – especially those with high concentrations of essential workers, multigenerational family households, visible minorities and individuals with lower socioeconomic status.1,2 These inequities resonate with Michael Garron Hospital (MGH), a community teaching hospital, and Ontario Health Team East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP) which serve nearly 400,000 residents across 22 of Canada’s most diverse neighbourhoods in East Toronto, with 5 designated as priority neighbourhoods.3
As variants of concern emerged in Wave 2, ICES data revealed that East Toronto priority neighbourhoods (Thorncliffe Park, Crescent Town and Oakridge) had disproportionally high case rates and low vaccination rates.1 MGH promptly adapted to include a hyper-local, low-barrier, data-driven strategy within its overall immunization plan to support marginalized populations.
In March 2021, MGH and ETHP came together with family physicians, community ambassadors and volunteers to launch a community-led COVID-19 mobile vaccination strategy in High-Incident Neighbourhoods. Developed in consultation with the Ontario government and Toronto Public Health to increase vaccine allocation, this strategy builds off an existing foundation of trust and partnered with over 50 local organizations to safely accelerate vaccination of East Toronto residents.4 Using data and a distributive leadership approach, a total of 300,000 doses had been administered across more than 100 clinics in high-incident neighbourhoods as of July 7. This demonstrates the collective impact a collaborative equity approach has on increasing vaccination rates in vulnerable communities.