Correspondence to the WDG Medical Officer of Health Re: Vaccine Prioritization

Apr 23rd, 2021
By mdunne

On March 15, 2021, The Dufferin County Diversity Equity and Inclusion Community Advisory Committee send the following correspondence to Dr. Nicola Mercer, Medical Officer of Health for  Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health:  

Dear Dr. Mercer,

The Dufferin County Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee is committed to raising awareness and advocating for equitable access to services for historically disadvantaged groups.

COVID 19 has had a disproportionate impact on racialized groups in Canada, Ontario and here in Wellington, Dufferin Guelph. In a Statistics Canada report issued March 11, 2021, the one year mark of COVID, findings show that across neighbourhoods with higher vs lower concentration of visible minorities

  • COVID-19 infections were three times higher 
  • hospitalizations rates were four times higher and
  • deaths were twice as high

...among individuals living in the most diverse neighbourhoods compared with the least diverse neighbourhoods.

In Ontario the mortality rate for areas with a visible minority population of 25% or more was 25.9 per 100,000 vs. 7.6 per 100,000 for predominantly white areas. During a recent presentation to the County of Dufferin Council, you stated that racialized people have contracted COVID at a rate five times higher than other residents in the WDG area.

It is clear that WDG Public Health has been a leader in Ontario, moving quickly to vaccinate long term care residents and staff, front line health care workers, and those 80+ living in the 55 Zina Street, Orangeville, ON L9W 1E5 | 519.941.2816 | dufferincounty.ca community. Data shows that those over 80 make up the largest number of COVID deaths and it is heartening to see the vaccine being prioritized for this group.

For the Phase 2 vaccine roll out, the committee strongly supports prioritizing vaccines for racialized groups and clearly identifying those groups in Wellington Dufferin Guelph. A strategy using a combination of age and high risk areas (those with higher percentage of visible minorities and soci-economically disadvantaged populations) to prioritize vaccination order was recommended by both the Ontario Science Advisory Table and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. Further the Ontario government has identified “at-risk” populations for priority in phase 2. At present there is no indication on the WDG Public Health website that “at risk” or racialized groups are being prioritized.

In addition, clear, culturally-appropriate communication, to address vaccine resistance and hesitancy especially as it may relate to past trauma and systemic racism is urgently required. This communication should be distributed using community leaders and partners in multiple languages to build trust and credibility. Education providing insight into past health inequities and the reasons for vaccine resistance in some racialized groups is needed for those administering vaccines.

Immediate action is required to ensure racialized residents in Wellington Dufferin Guelph have equitable access to vaccines.

Sincerely,

Dufferin County Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee Members