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Health-care system’s history with Black community is affecting attitudes around COVID-19 vaccine

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Before Brayana Taylor went into labour with her now 16-month-old daughter, she read up and carefully planned for the day. While much of it was a blur, she says she remembers her time at the hospital as traumatic, and that her concerns and feelings were dismissed.

“I just feel like, during the most vulnerable and crucial moments of my entire life, my care was mishandled.”

She rarely talks about what happened to her in detail, but after speaking to another Black mother, Taylor soon found out that she wasn’t alone in her experience. It’s something that she says has hurt her trust in the health-care system, and it has also affected how Taylor feels about the COVID-19 vaccine.

While health professionals are stressing to Canadians that the approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe, Taylor is one of those who attribute their vaccine hesitancy to eroded trust in the health-care system as a whole for its treatment of Black and Indigenous people.

Taylor runs an Instagram page called Black Motherhood Collective. In response to pushback she and others have received for being vaccine-hesitant, she put out a post outlining statistics about Black maternal health as an answer to why some Black women feel skeptical about the medical system.

One of them is an alarming stat from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics that reveals 84 per cent of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States in 2018 were Black women. There’s limited race-based medical research data available in Canada, but a 2015 McGill study found that Black women have significantly higher preterm births than white women.

“I think to a lot of people, it’s just hard to imagine why somebody wouldn’t want a vaccine, you know, because the pandemic has been around for what seems like forever at this point,” Taylor said.

“But in practice, we have to understand that there [are] a lot of kinks in our institutions and in our systems that really do obstruct a lot of progress when it comes to our communities.”

 

Brayana Taylor runs an Instagram account called Black Motherhood Collective. She says it was important to her that the skepticism she and other Black women feel about the COVID-19 vaccine and the health care system be taken seriously. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

 

Black people have also been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite making up 9 per cent of Toronto’s population, a quarter of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are Black.

It’s something Cheryl Prescod, the executive director of the Black Creek Community Health Centre in North York, Ont., is working hard to address as part of the effort to vaccinate all Canadians and stop the spread of the virus.

Prescod notes that the predominantly Black and brown neighbourhood is home to many essential workers living in precarious conditions. Social distancing is made harder when they shuttle to work in crowded buses and come home to densely populated, high-rise apartment buildings.

“This has been a hotspot since the beginning of COVID. We have a high number of positive cases, and we also have a low testing rate,” Prescod said.

Of the top 10 COVID-19 hot spots in Toronto last month, eight were in the city’s north-west end.

Prescod adds that while the vaccine isn’t yet available to most of the general public, the work to address their questions and inform them about it needs to happen now.

 

Cheryl Prescod, executive director of the Black Creek Community Health Centre, says she sees first-hand how Black and other racialized Torontonians have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

 

In a recent virtual information session, the Black Creek Community Health Centre put together a panel of health professionals and community members to take questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Attendees weighed in with questions ranging from how the COVID-19 vaccine works differently than the flu vaccine, to whether or not there was a microchip in it being used to track people, particularly low-income people of colour. Prescod has heard a lot of it before.

“Can we trust that substance? Can we trust what’s happening? There’s still that mistrust around that science, around the development of the vaccine, around the fact that certain populations might be used as guinea pigs,” Prescod said.

One of the historical examples Prescod hears patients refer to is the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, where 600 Black men in Alabama were experimented on without being told what for. In Canada, Indigenous children in residential schools were also experimented on to learn about the effects of malnutrition.

 

The Tuskegee Syphilis Study, conducted in Alabama from the 1930s to the 1970s, took blood samples from Black men for an experiment they didn’t know they were participating in. The unethical study is often cited by experts when systemic racism in health care is discussed. (National Archives and Records Administration)

 

Dr. Upton Allen, head of infectious diseases at Sick Kids Hospital, has been meeting with the Ontario government, urging it to factor the need to repair relationships with vulnerable communities into the province’s vaccine rollout plan.

“It’s really important to ensure that the Black community is engaged in discussions and decision-making, and that the community can feel that they are part of the process,” Dr. Allen said.

“It’s important to ensure that the messaging relating to vaccine prioritization is appropriate, and is very transparent and very clear, so that there’s no misinterpretation of intent.”

Dr. Allen says he received his first dose of the vaccine a few weeks ago, and that he is confident recommending it to others in the Black community.

He also emphasizes the importance of Black people being involved and considered at every level of health care. Dr. Allen leads a team of researchers at Sick Kids looking at the rates of COVID-19 infection among Black Canadians and the factors behind them, as well as pushing for their participation in antibody testing. He says the lack of diversity in medical research can contribute to inequities in the system.

“One needs to make sure that all the major groups are included so that one can generalize across several groups, not just in terms of racial groups, but also in terms of age groups,” Dr. Allen said. “And so moving forward, it’s important that vaccine related studies — and there will be more — will include Black representatives, Black participants.”

 

Health professionals are stressing to Canadians that the approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe, but some say their trust in the system has been eroded due to its past treatment of vulnerable communities. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

 

In a statement to CBC News, Nosa Ero-Brown, Assistant Deputy Minister of Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate, says that the province is talking to community health groups about how these concerns can be addressed through the Communities at Risk COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force Sub-Group.

“We will be working with partners to develop culturally relevant and responsive outreach strategies for each community as part of our Vaccine Distribution Plan, so that all Ontarians can access and understand the facts they need to make an informed decision on getting vaccinated,” the statement said.

The Ministry of Health says it is allocating $12.5 million in funding towards community health agencies in 15 high-risk communities for community outreach and increased testing. It adds that at-risk areas will be prioritized in Phase 2 of the vaccine roll-out.

This week, the City of Toronto announced a new Black Community COVID-19 Response Plan, allocating $6.8 million in funding towards 12 Black-led and Black-serving organizations to provide additional support, from food delivery to vaccine education.

The Black Health Alliance has been advocating for investment in grassroots organizations that are trusted in the communities they serve.

The government is not going to be able to build trust with the Black community overnight.– Paul Bailey, Black Health Alliance

“The government is not going to be able to build trust with the Black community overnight,” said Paul Bailey, executive director of the Black Health Alliance. “The agencies or the organizations that have to engage with certain parts of the population will be able to build trust over time.”

It’s the kind of commitment Taylor says she’s been looking for from those in power.

“Make the effort and let us know that this is something that you’re very serious about, and you’re adamant about repairing the relationship, and making sure that there is a level of trust between the Black community and health-care professionals so that we can have confidence moving forward,” Taylor said.

Dr. Allen remains cautiously optimistic that the advocacy work he and others are doing is leading to change.

“I think that the issues are being heard, steps are being taken, but it’s early in the game to see whether or not these steps are going to be sustainable and appropriately resourced.”

 

 

Source: – CBC.ca

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Northern Health to open 30 COVID vaccine clinics for oldest residents, Indigenous seniors – Caledonia Courier

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Northern Health’s oldest residents, Indigenous seniors and elders will be able to book a COVID-19 vaccination starting on Monday (March 8) in 30 communities across the region.

The only people eligible to book appointments on Monday will be seniors aged 90 and up, Indigenous seniors aged 65 and up and Indigenous elders. There will be 30 clinics set up across 26 communities. Those wishing to sign up for a vaccine are asked to call only when their age bracket is eligible for a vaccine. Most clinics will use Pfizer vaccines, while a few will use the Modena vaccine.

Overall, Northern Health said it plans to vaccinate 15,000 people between March 15 and April 10 as part of the Phase Two effort. Vaccine clinics will operate at different times in different communities. To find out more, visit: https://www.northernhealth.ca/health-topics/covid-19-vaccine-plan.

To book, seniors, or someone calling on behalf of a senior, can call 1-844-255-7555 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT starting on Monday. Call centres will be open seven days a week. When calling, have the personal health number of the individual being vaccinated available. Be advised that staff will not ask for credit card information or payment.

Northern Health CEO Cathy Ulrich said that vaccine teams are already immunizing people who cannot travel to a clinic, and that callers will be asked if they can get to their clinic when they call. Northern Health will be keeping track of people who call in but miss their communities vaccine clinic dates and potentially return to that community later in Phase Two. People who miss Phase Two vaccinations in their own communities can travel to a neighbouring one or get vaccinated during Phase Three.


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48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health – Salmon Arm Observer – Salmon Arm Observer

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Forty-eight COVID-19 vaccine clinics will open across Interior Health (IH) in the coming weeks.

People aged 90 and over (those born before or in 1931), as well as Indigenous people over 65 (born in or before 1956) and elders, will be able to begin booking appointments Monday (March 8) through IH’s call centre at 1-877-740-7747. On March 15, that will open to people 85 and older (born in or before 1936) and on March 22, people over 80 (born in or before 1941) will be able to book their appointment to receive the first dose of the vaccine. The call centre will be open between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. every day.

After a person becomes eligible for the vaccine, they can book an appointment anytime. Eligible people looking to book an appointment can do so themselves or have another person book the appointment on their behalf.

Callers are asked to have on hand their legal name, date of birth, postal code, personal health number and current contact information, including a regularly-checked email address for booking confirmation.

READ MORE: Canada’s chief of public health hopeful as Health Canada approves 4th vaccine

READ MORE: Second COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna General Hospital

The 48 clinics, located across the health authority’s widespread geographical boundaries, are set to open as soon as March 15 and deployment will be adapted as the vaccine rollout continues. A full list of clinics is available on IH’s website.

“The list you see today will be adjusted according to need,” said Karen Bloemink, IH’s vice president of pandemic response, during a press conference on Sunday (March 7).

To prepare for anticipated high call volumes, IH is asking people to stick to the outlined schedule to prevent a system overload. The health authority reassured there will be enough supply for all who want to be vaccinated.

“We would like to assure everyone that they will not miss their chance to get a vaccine if they want to get a vaccine,” said Bloemink.

IH will contact individuals when their second dose is due, after about four months, allowing them to make another appointment.

While IH expects the majority of individuals to come to clinics, it is working with known clients who need accommodations due to mobility issues. Those plans could involve home visits if required.

Despite the concerns of many regarding vaccine efficacy rates, recipients will not be able to choose which vaccine they get.

The majority of clinics will be offering the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which medical health officer Dr. Albert de Villiers said have comparable efficacy. The AstraZeneca vaccine will be reserved for younger people, and the use of the recently approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine is still to be determined within IH.

Those who are vaccinated in the next few weeks will still need to follow currently in-place health orders. De Villiers said in the coming months, he hopes visitation can increase.

“At this stage, the provincial health officer’s orders are still in place,” de Villiers said. “Even if you’ve got your vaccine, you should still follow all those orders.”

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


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Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents – Port Alberni Valley News – Alberni Valley News

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Thousands more seniors are set to receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine over the coming month at 19 clinics on Vancouver Island.

Island Health announced today, March 7, more details of its regional plan to support the next phase of B.C.’s immunization program.

The health authority identified the locations of 19 community clinics from Sooke to Port Hardy. The list of clinic locations can be found at this link.

Half a dozen clinics on the Island are classified as “mass” clinics able to accommodate 15-20 people at a time, with up to 12 immunizations per station per hour, said Victoria Schmid, Island Health’s vice-president of pandemic planning, during a press conference. Mass clinics will be located at Parksville Community Centre, Beban Park in Nanaimo, the Cowichan Community Centre gym in Duncan, Eagle Ridge Arena in Langford, the Archie Browing Sports Centre in Esquimalt and the University of Victoria’s McKinnon Gym.

Registration starts Monday, March 8, for non-Indigenous people age 90 and over and Indigenous elders 65 and over, and vaccine appointments will begin March 15. To make an appointment, an eligible person or someone calling on their behalf should call 1-833-348-4787 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., seven days a week.

Call centre operators will ask for legal name, date of birth, postal code, personal health number, phone number and an e-mail address.

Individuals 85 and over can start calling March 15 to make appointments for the week starting March 22. Island Health hopes to have all elderly seniors aged 80-plus immunized by April 12.

“The more we can do to make this a successful launch, the quicker we can get through populations and the quicker we’re back to having beers on the patio over the summer,” Schmid said.

She said Island Health anticipates having “more than enough supply” of vaccine doses and is expecting to receive close to 25,000 doses per week by the end of this month.

“We will just continue to see more and more supply in this phase, which is such a good news story for our population,” she said.

Island Health, in the release, said the opening of the community clinics will “continue to build on a successful vaccination program” that has delivered more than 60,000 doses so far to seniors in long-term care and assisted living, health-care workers and members of First Nations communities.

Island Health said its teams have “done a lot of planning and have prepared for a number of contingencies, and appreciate patience and the “continued kindness” that has been shown to health-care workers.

“This is the largest immunization rollout any of us has experienced, and it will not be without challenges,” the release concluded. “We will get through those challenges together, as we move closer to a time when we can be together with our loved ones and friends once again.”

There are about 30 small and remote communities on Vancouver Island that do not have immunization clinics among the 19 locations on the list. Residents in those communities “will be vaccinated in a whole-of-community approach,” the health authority said, which may involve one- or two-day immunization clinics.

READ ALSO: Vaccines coming, B.C. seniors need to be ready, premier says

READ ALSO: Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

READ ALSO: Stay informed about COVID-19



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