According to Wellington-Dufferin Guelph Public Health (WDGPH), members of the region’s BIPOC (Blacks, Indigenous, People of Colour) community are at least five times more likely to get COVID-19 than their white counterparts.
“This is not a Peel issue. It is an Ontario issue,” said Dr. Nicola Mercer, Chief Medical Officer of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, to Dufferin County Council on February 11th.
Dr. Mercer emphasized that the government should keep these facts in mind for the next immunization strategy phase.
“It is not proportionate,” explained Dr. Mercer. “There are neighbourhoods in Ontario, there are age groups in Ontario, and there are certainly other risk groups such as our BIPOC community that have a greater burden of COVID disease than others. I think that is important for us to know as we try to see who should be immunized next.”
Dufferin News asked WDGPH what resulted in the BIPOC community being in more danger of contracting COVID-19.
“Racial minorities tend to be ‘essential’ workers, involved in the most high-risk activities that increase risk of exposure,” delineated WDGPH spokesperson Danny Williamson. Examples are those employed by factories or long-term care facilities.
Williamson also highlighted that in multi-ethnic populations, a higher proportion of racialized groups tend to live in densely populated areas and ‘crowded housing types,’ an example being apartment buildings, that increase the risk of direct and indirect contact when compared to white sub-groups.
“It’s important to consider there are likely a number of factors at play here. To be clear we think it is important to not discount the relationship racial prejudice has both directly and indirectly on health disparity.”
Later on, during the February 11th Dufferin County council meeting, Shelburne’s Deputy Mayor Steve Anderson suggested that the county send a letter to Dufferin Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones to suggest moving the BIPOC community ‘up in the line’ for the vaccination. Warden Darren White confirmed that this occurred at Melancthon’s March 4th council meeting. The Dufferin County Canadian Black Association (DCCBA) also sent a letter to MPP Jones with Shelburne’s Deputy Mayor Anderson’s support.
“It is clear that we need to take action now!” declared the DCCBA in the letter to MPP Sylvia Jones dated February 17th. “We are imploring the Ontario Government to elevate the Black and other racialized groups as priority candidates for the vaccine and that plans be made to address this inequity as soon as possible.”
Dufferin News was referred to a March 5th news release from the Office of the Premier after asking MPP Sylvia Jones’s office whether she would advocate for the elevation of Black and racialized communities when it comes to the prioritization of at-risk groups in the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out plan.
There is no specific mention of the BIPOC community being included in Phase 2 of the vaccination plan in the release. The groups included are:
- Older adults between 60-79 years of age;
- Individuals with specific health conditions and some primary caregivers;
- People who live and work in congregate settings and some primary caregivers;
- People who live in hot spots with high rates of death, hospitalizations and transmission; and,
- Certain workers who cannot work from home.
A separate news release from the Office of the Premier dated March 5th provided more details. It stated that Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph is considered a hotspot and will be receiving extra doses. Furthermore, certain workers who cannot work from home are expected to be vaccinated over April through July. The news release also supplied more specifics on which of these workers would first be eligible, but there was no reference to the BIPOC community or that they are found to be at higher risk.
“Unfortunately, people’s relationship with the health system is reflective of our struggles toward equity more broadly across society,” said Williamson.
Note: Updated to include what the definition of BIPOC (Blacks, Indigenous, People of Colour).
References – WDGPH: ‘Number of factors at play’ BIPOC 5x more likely to catch COVID
- Dufferin County Council – February 11, 2021 – Dufferin County YouTube Channel
- Press Release: COVID-19 Impact Letter to MPP Jones – Dufferin County Canadian Black Association
- News Release: Ontario Ready to Rollout Phase Two of COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan – Ontario Newsroom
- Populations Eligible for Phase Two COVID-19 Vaccination – Ontario Newsroom
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