Manitoba must shift vaccine strategy to ensure BIPOC people protected: Dr. Anderson
Some ethnic groups have infection rates 20 times those of white Manitobans, data says
New data suggests basing vaccination on age rather than other risk factors likely contributed to more severe COVID-19 outcomes among people of colour — and that means public health officials must shift their strategy going forward, Dr. Marcia Anderson says.
Anderson, the public health lead of the Manitoba First Nation Pandemic Response Co-ordination Team, unveiled new race-based data at Monday's COVID-19 press conference alongside the chief provincial health officer and made a number of recommendations for future vaccination campaigns.
She said public health leads made a crucial error when planning the vaccine rollout.
"We were assuming that a 60 year-old African or South Asian person had the same risk as a 60-year-old white person," Anderson said.
Data suggested certain ethnic groups were at much higher risk of contracting the virus than white Manitobans because of lower income levels, higher rates of overcrowded housing and jobs with more contact with the public.
WATCH | Key takeaways from new data of impact of COVID-19 on BIPOC people:
Southeast Asian Manitobans, for instance — including ethnic Vietnamese, Lao, Thai and Cambodian people — had COVID-19 case rates 21.7 times those of white Manitobans from March 31 to June 7, according to Anderson's presentation.
African Manitobans had infection rates 8.7 times the rate of white Manitobans.
"When data on people admitted to ICU only was considered, the admission rate was over four times higher for BIPOC peoples than it was for white people, and the average age was 10 years younger," she said.
However, because of the age-based rollout, younger people of colour — who had similar health outcomes as white people ten or more years older than them — had to wait weeks longer to be eligible for a vaccine.
WATCH | Dr. Anderson on the social determinants of health:
Dr. Brent Roussin said the vaccine task force altered the vaccine rollout based on evidence coming in, but there were some roadblocks along the way.
"One of the most dramatic risk factors was age and that's how things were rolled out at first. As we saw more and more risk factors and we got more and more vaccine in, we were able to do some more of those targeted interventions," he said.
Anderson says the vaccination campaign for the duration of the pandemic and in the future should be concentrated on areas where coverage is the lowest, with more community partnerships.
But that also includes addressing some ongoing social issues that contribute to poor health outcomes.
"Vaccination alone is not sufficient to address gaps in health that are rooted in structural causes, including employment or housing-related issues," Anderson said.
Expect a plan, critic says
Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew says not addressing these issues "impacts all of us."
"Until we do that, we're not going to have as healthy and as prosperous a society as we could achieve," he said at a press conference on Monday afternoon.
Health critic and Union Station MLA Uzoma Asagwara says the premier and the minister of health need to create a plan as soon as possible to address the inequities and social determinants of health outlined in Anderson's presentation.
"Tomorrow all Manitobans should be eagerly expecting a plan from the premier and the minister of health because they've had this information for an adequate, a substantial amount of time in order to make sure that one is in place," Asagwara said.
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