This is a summary, written by members of the CITF Secretariat, of:

Reddon H, Barker B, Bartlett S, Márquez AC, Sekirov I, Jassem A, Morshed M, Clemens A, Beck McGreevy P, Hayashi K, DeBeck K, Krajden M, Milloy MJ, Socías ME. Uptake of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination among structurally-marginalized people who use drugs in Vancouver, Canada. Sci Rep. 2023 Oct 20;13(1):17930. Doi:

The results and/or conclusions contained in the research do not necessarily reflect the views of all CITF members.

A CITF-funded study, published in Scientific Reports, found that only 48% of people who use drugs (PWUD) had received at least two SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses at baseline in September 2021, much lower than in the general population (70%) in British Columbia at that time. Among PWUD, those using social media as a source of vaccine information were less likely to be vaccinated with a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. This study was led by Dr. M.-J. Milloy in collaboration with Dr. Hudson Reddon, Dr. Agatha Jassem, Dr. Muhammad Morshed, Dr. Inna Sekirov, Dr. Ana Citlali Marquez, Dr. Brittany Barker, Dr. Sofia Bartlett, Dr. Maria Eugenia Socias and Dr. Mel Krajden (all from the University of British Columbia).

Key findings:

  • By September 2021, 48% of people who use drugs (PWUD) had received at least two vaccine doses, more than 20 percentage points below the general population in British Columbia. By the end of the study period (March 2022), 68% of the participants had received at least two SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses (compared to 83% of the general population) and 22% had received three SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses.
  • Study participants who reported using social media as a source of vaccine information were less likely to be vaccinated.
  • Among PWUD, individuals living with HIV and older individuals were more likely to be vaccinated.
  • The three most reported reasons among PWUD who were opposed or undecided about receiving a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine were concerns about vaccine side effects, concerns about vaccine safety, and government mistrust.
  • The three most reported reasons for vaccine uptake among PWUD who were vaccinated or planning to receive a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine during the study period were concerns about acquiring or transmitting SARS-CoV-2 and confidence in vaccine safety.

The authors conclude that efforts to promote vaccine uptake among marginalized populations, such as PWUD, should include tailored vaccination programs, accessible and trusted sources of vaccine information, and the reduction of structural barriers, for example, by providing financial supports to attend vaccine clinics. Collaborative initiatives with peer groups and community organizations are essential for providing evidence-based vaccine information and ensuring informed decision-making.

Study participants were from three ongoing cohorts of PWUD in Vancouver: the At-Risk Youth Study (ARYS), the Vancouver Injection Drug Users Study (VIDUS), and the AIDS Care Cohort to evaluate Exposure to Survival Services (ACCESS). Participants were recruited through extensive street outreach and self-referral from the Downtown Eastside and the Downtown South neighbourhoods of Vancouver. Data on sociodemographic information, substance use behaviours, attitudes towards COVID-19, and uptake of vaccines were collected from study participants between June 2021 and March 2022.