Advocates call on public health officials to address COVID-19 vaccine concerns in BIPOC communities

Professionals working with BIPOC communities say racism in Canada’s healthcare system has caused mistrust for many in the community. Miranda Fatur has more on the calls to address medical racism.


VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Professionals working with Black, Indigenous, and communities of color say racism in Canada’s healthcare system has caused mistrust for many and they want issues addressed to encourage racialized people to get the vaccine.

June Francis, the Co-chair of the Hogan’s Alley Society explains the reluctance around receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in Black communities stems from a dark history of racism.

“More recently, as the vaccine is rolled out against a history of science treating us poorly, has been enormous skepticism,” she says.

“We also know that we continue to experience a poor treatment at the hands of both science, who don’t test to ensure that we are going to benefit, who don’t pay attention to the diseases that we have, and also when we go to the hospital, in terms of the service delivery, we also know that we experience poor treatment.”

Francis adds that it’s not that Black people don’t trust science, “they just don’t trust how science has treated us.”

Ottawa-based physician Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng says he’s also heard about the hesitancy to receive COVID-19 vaccines in BIPOC communities.

“I took a picture of myself getting the vaccines to address the hesitancy. So to be proactive about it. Go into the communities, ask them what their issues are, what their concerns are.”

Dut Dr. Farah Shroff, a public health researcher and educator at UBC, explains it’s important to not conflate the concept of vaccine hesitancy – with the desire to be safe from racism.

“I would say that people who understand racism in the medical system or just doing taking measures to protect themselves and their families,” she says.

For public health authorities to regain trust, Francis is calling for several changes.

“I’m calling on the province to work with us to work to spread the word on a campaign to ensure that our community has a reassurance and access and service that gives some comfort that they should feel too.”

In an email, the B.C. human rights commissioner agreed that the province should provide race-based COVID-19 data.

“That said, the data needs to be collected, stored, and used in a way that furthers the health and human rights goals for which it was collected and cannot be used in a way that increases the stigma of disadvantage,” the statement reads.

According to the province, race-based data on COVID-19 cases has not been systematically collected, except First Nations data.

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