A final report from the Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity will be presented to the Board of Health this morning. The report, a culmination of months of consultation and research by the Task Force with Black communities across Toronto, outlines seven key community concerns regarding responses during the pandemic. It also details recommended actions for various orders of government to take to address these challenges.
Overall report recommendations address such issues as inadequate sick days and income support, high levels of mistrust in health care and vaccine producers, misinformation circulating on social media, inconsistent collection and availability of race-based data, surging mental health concerns, and the stress and grief faced by many Black residents with relatives living in countries where there is limited access to vaccines.
Report recommendations will be considered by the Board of Health and then sent to the July 14 to 15 meeting of City Council.
The Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity was created in the fall of 2020 to engage with Black communities around the disparities in COVID-19 test positivity, hospitalization and mortality rates, as well as the need for comprehensive prevention efforts such as knowledge of the various vaccines.
Since February 2021, the Task Force has hosted 18 virtual town hall sessions with a total of 4,950 people in attendance. Through media coverage and direct engagement with Black community groups, the Task Force’s overall outreach has spanned hundreds of thousands of Toronto residents.
The full report from The Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity is available here
“The Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity is a prime example of leveraging the passion and skills of experts to address critical issues. This community-led initiative to support one of the populations hit hardest by COVID-19 has resulted in meaningful and measurable changes on the ground. The intelligence and insights of the Task Force and the wider community, detailed in this report, provide powerful data to address ongoing challenges. And, though we still have much work to do, the efforts of the Task Force have positively impacted the health of Toronto’s Black community.”
– Mayor John Tory
“The Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity has played a lead role in identifying and addressing systemic barriers to vaccine access in Black communities, as well as the impact of anti-Black racism on health care access and services. The recommendations in this report speak to the depth of the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has on Toronto’s Black residents, and the need for action from all three levels of government on addressing discrimination in health services, and increasing investment and supports for Black communities. I want to thank the Task Force members for their relentless and incredible work. As the Chair of Toronto Board of Health I am committed to doing everything — absolutely everything — to ensure all levels of Government implement the Task Force’s recommendations.”
– Councillor Joe Cressy (Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Toronto Board of Health
“‘Focus on the science’ has been a constant refrain from Team Toronto as we support Toronto residents through the pandemic. Listening to the evidence-based perspectives of the Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity has put the City in a stronger position to guide our strategies to inform and engage residents in a culturally meaningful way. The work of the Task Force can benefit all city residents. We plan to use this valuable information as we continue to strengthen the health of our city.”
– Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health
“The Task Force knew from our first meeting that changing COVID-19 trajectories would be a marathon effort, rather than a sprint. Toronto’s Black communities reached the grave disparity of representing 33 per cent of Toronto’s COVID-19 cases in August 2020. We had to communicate the science and risks to our communities, which we did through many town halls. Working in tandem with trusted partner organizations and our highly engaged communities, we have been heartened to see the case rate disparities reduced. We are redoubling our efforts to close another grave disparity: between rates of vaccination coverage and community-level COVID-19 risks. This COVID-19 race is far from over.”
– Dr. Akwatu Khenti, Special Advisor to the City of Toronto’s Targeted COVID Equity Action Plan and Chair of the Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity
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