News and Commentary

Favor ‘Racialized Communities’ Over Some Older High-Risk People For Vaccine, Canadian Guidance States
Canadian National flag waving on a clear sunny day
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New Canadian guidance for the application of coronavirus vaccines prioritizes certain racial communities ahead of some older non-racialized people who may be high-risk. The guidance states that the adults in those “racialized communities” should get the vaccines before other adults who may even be at high risk of severe illness from contracting COVID-19 because of underlying medical conditions.

“Adults from racialized communities disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic should be prioritized for shots in the second stage of the vaccination campaign, says new guidance from Canada’s national advisory committee on immunization,” CTV News reported.

Those adults from “racialized communities” will receive the vaccines before “individuals 16-59 years of age with an underlying medical condition at high risk of severe illness due to COVID-19 and their essential primary caregiver,” the guidance states.

The guidance claims, “Many of the populations at increased risk of severe disease or exposure face challenges accessing immunization. The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified social and biologic inequities and threatens to exacerbate them with the inequitable allocation of vaccines.”

The second stage, planned for the spring, will follow the effort to vaccinate the staff and residents of long-term care homes, adults 70 and older, front-line health workers and Indigenous communities.

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam stated, “Provinces have different demographics but they use the evidence, I think, to inform their vaccinations. For example, if you were in Toronto, if you’re in Ontario, they’ve already got data in relationship to where those higher risk populations are and that they be considered as part of the rollout for the prioritization of vaccines.”

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) wrote:

The objective of this advisory committee statement is to provide guidance for the equitable, ethical, and efficient allocation of authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the context of staggered arrival of vaccine supply that will necessitate offering vaccines to some populations earlier than others. 

The guidance added:

Efforts should be made to increase access to immunization services to reduce health inequities without further stigmatization or discrimination, and to engage systemically marginalized populations and racialized populations in immunization program planning. Examples of interventions to engage communities and address barriers to accessing vaccine, as summarized in the Equity Matrix, could help reduce inequities.

For example, strategies should be implemented to increase availability and access to COVID-19 vaccines to migrant groups, who fall within the above key populations, but for whom vaccines are not typically provided under provincial or territorial health plans. Migrant groups can include: temporary residents (e.g., temporary foreign workers, international students, asylum seekers etc.) and undocumented migrants (i.e., individuals without status).

CBC reported on Saturday:

Two public health experts in Toronto say governments must prioritize vaccinating Black Canadians and other people of colour against COVID-19 because the data shows they are most at risk of contracting the virus. Akwatu Khenti and Ananya Tina Banerjee told CBC Radio’s The House that failing to vaccinate those communities will not only put them at greater risk of getting COVID-19, but also increases the chance that the virus will spread more widely.

Khenti stated, “The reason that Black people have a higher rate of positivity, or higher hospitalization rates, is actually because of social inequities, systemic racism and neighborhood vulnerabilities.”

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