By Tara Tomlinson and L.M., Canada Contributors to The Progressive Column
In order for black and brown communities to feel comfortable taking the COVID-19 vaccine, all levels of government need to rebuild trust.
COVID-19 has severely impacted the lives of millions across the globe. On December 8th, the first UK Pfizer vaccine was administered. As cases grow rapidly on a global scale, the rush to administer it has begun. A simple scroll through Twitter shows how hesitant marginalized communities are when it comes to taking the vaccine, due to a long history of testing malpractices, experienced medical racism, and inaccessible health care in black and brown communities. There is evidence that there is a disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on racialized communities.
In early stages, the push for vaccines to be beta tested in Africa exposed how the world sees black people. There is a palpable feeling of disrespect and marginalization. Are we guinea pigs for the west?
French researcher, Jean-Paul Mira, said, “If I can be provocative, shouldn’t we be doing this study in Africa, where there are no masks, no treatments, no resuscitation?” He compared the COVID-19 research to AIDS studies in a derogatory way saying “with prostitutes, we try things because we know that they are highly exposed and that they do not protect themselves.”
Based on the above poll conducted on Instagram, there are mixed reactions from the general public. Almost all who chose “no” to taking the vaccine are black Canadians. The other participants who said yes gave conditions- most notably the desire to take a “wait and see” approach for safety from side effects.
“Almost all who chose “no” to taking the vaccine are black Canadians.”
Recently, we have been assaulted by stories of wayward politicians who completely disregard our laws in order to holiday somewhere warm during our winter.The complete disregard of COVID-19 protocol by government officials does not help assuage the marginalized communities distrust. Canadian finance minister Rod Phillips was caught travelling to St. Barthelemy on December 13th 2020. St. Barthelemy has a small population of 9031 people, with a healthcare system that is less equipped to handle any breakouts. Phillips admitted the error, “it was a mistake and I apologize”, but the lack of concern many politicians and government officials have for the travel restrictions leaves us questioning why citizens are being held to a higher standard. His destination of choice is a clear example of government officials’ who show indifference to the health and welfare of internationally marginalized and racialized people. He has since resigned.
“Rod Phillips’ destination of choice is a clear example of government officials’ who show indifference to the health and welfare of internationally marginalized and racialized people.”
As of January 5th 2021, Prime Minister Trudeau had to openly forbid travelling by government officials after politicians were caught or admitted to leaving the country. This seems obvious to all but those that are supposed to be our leaders.
In order for black and brown communities to feel comfortable taking the COVID-19 vaccine, all levels of government need to rebuild trust. Medical racism exists and must be addressed. Black women have perished while giving birth because medical staff don’t listen appropriately. Black children are being diagnosed with behavioural issues for acting child-like. Politicians need to follow their own COVID-19 guidelines as well. Leading by example is far more important than some of them seem to believe.
We need a safe vaccine to reach all communities in a timely fashion. To have the vaccine be delayed in its delivery to black and brown communities would be yet another tragic blow to the trust of government.