Mar 2, 2023

Leong Fellow receives the David Johnson Award


We are pleased to announce that Dr. Julia Brandenberger recently received the “David Johnson Award” at the Pediatric Emergency Research Canada (PERC) Annual Scientific Meeting on January 31. Dr. Brandenberger is a Pediatrician specialized in pediatric emergency medicine from the University Children’s Hospital Bern in Switzerland, Clinical Fellow at The Hospital for Sick Children's emergency department, and Post-Doctoral Fellow at the S.H. Leong Centre for Healthy Children.

The following is a summary of her presentation and work on the project “COVID-19 Vaccine Equity in Immigrant, Refugee and other Ontario Children and Adolescents – A Population-Based Cohort Study.”

Our study explored inequities in vaccination coverage in immigrant, refugee and other children and adolescents in Ontario.

We designed the study as population-based cohort study using linked demographic and healthcare data. The study aimed to identify COVID-19 vaccine coverage among immigrant, refugee, and other Ontario children (4 -10 years) and adolescents (11-17 years) defined as ≥1 vaccination in the children’s group and ≥2 vaccinations in the adolescents group. We first explored differences in the vaccination coverage between immigrants and refugees compared to other Ontario children and then differences within the immigrant/refugee group using logistic regression models.

We included 2.2 million minors who were nearly equally distributed between the two vaccination cohorts, with a third of each cohort being first- or second-generation immigrants or refugees.

The overall vaccination rates were around 53% in children and around 79% in adolescents. Immigrants had on average higher vaccine coverage and refugees had lower vaccination rates but the most relevant association was found for region of origin. Depending on where immigrants/refugees originally came from the vaccination coverage ranged between different world regions from around 20 % to 74% in children; and from around 60% to 92% in adolescents. This strong variation was also present in the logistic regression model once we adjusted for important socioeconomic and demographic factors. Important differences depending on their region of origin were also present for second generation immigrants/refugees.

These findings are important when designing campaigns to improve vaccination coverage in the diverse population of Ontario.

The next step is to gain detailed knowledge on the barriers to vaccination in the specific under-vaccinated groups identified in our study. Future vaccination campaigns should address the barriers important for the affected subgroups to improve vaccine equity for all minors living in Ontario. A more detailed publication of this work is forthcoming.

Question: What does winning this award mean to you?  

Answer: It was my first time attending the PERC meeting and it was a beautiful experience to be so warmly welcomed, despite the fact that I was new and coming from somewhere else. Winning this award shows me that there are many of us in the medical and research community that are concerned about the devastating harm health inequities have on local and global populations. This experience highly motivates me to continue my research and advocacy in this field. It strengthens my hope that we can build strong collaborations, identify equity gaps, and learn how to effectively bridge them.