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Francesca Paceri, a registered pharmacist technician carefully fills the Pfizer-BioNTech in Toronto on Tuesday, December 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

by Sumeet Dhami

As the COVID-19 vaccines are being administered across Canada, Ontario’s COVID-19 Task Force has reached out to the South Asian Task Force to connect diverse communities to reliable information on the vaccines. This comes after a lot of controversy in past months about important COVID-19 information not being available for minority communities.

 

Dr. Priya Shah from the South Asian Task Force said these regular meetings have been very positive, and the team is excited to be able to connect their community to government planning. She said they’ve had conversations with Dr. Isaac Bogoch, the clinician investigator at Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, on how information about the vaccine can be provided with transparency to the South Asian community.

“Many people in different communities might be worried of the side-effects, or the long-term effects,” Shah said.

“But doctors are confident in this vaccine because the MRNA technology has been being worked on for 10 years now for cancer treatments. I want everyone to know that this vaccine does not alter genes. Think of the MRNA vaccine as adding an additional recipe, to your book. It wont change your book, it will only teach you how to make something new, in this case how to create an immune response to fight COVID-19.”

The latest data from a study conducted by Angus Reid Institute indicates a notable increase in the number of Canadians who say they are willing to be immunized against COVID-19 as soon as a vaccine is available to them. A month ago, a plurality of Canadians (40 per cent) said they were keen to be vaccinated as soon as possible, as opposed to wanting to wait a while first. Today, almost half (48 per cent) want an immediate jab.

Sociology professor Hira Singh said it is important for government to help clear out any misconceptions that people have with regards to the vaccination. He said in Canada, our public health system holds more trust than many other countries. When it comes to understanding how South Asians will trust the government, Professor Singh said that is based partially on their social status.  He gave the example of high rates in South Asians being directly related to their jobs, such as truck drivers, taxi drivers, and warehouse workers in Peel region. Singh said if the government wants to reach these communities, its important to understand the social fabric and their social needs.

“What is needed is the fair and just system of work and distribution and that’s what this (South Asian) community needs,” said Singh.

At the moment, the province expects that the general population may be able to get the vaccine as soon as April. In the meantime, the South Asian COVID-19 Task Force say their meetings with the province will take place regularly.