Doctors from diverse backgrounds hope video series talking about vaccine helps address hesitancy

A new online video campaign aims to reach out to diverse communities through the voices of medical professionals to dispel myths about COVID-19 and encourage vaccine uptake.

10-part video series from U Multicultural features Manitoba doctors addressing range of COVID-19 topics

A closeup of a man with a beard and a shaved head, in front of a blurred background.
Dr. Jared Bullard, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, is one of the doctors featured in an online video series aimed at encouraging vaccine uptake among diverse communities. (Submitted by Jared Bullard)

A new online video campaign aims to reach out to diverse communities in Manitoba through the voices of medical professionals to dispel myths about COVID-19 and encourage vaccine uptake.

The project by U Multicultural — a digital media platform and production centre focused on diverse communities in Manitoba — recruited four doctors from a variety of backgrounds to take on some of the more controversial questions regarding vaccines and COVID-19 itself.

Dr. Amila Heendeniya, an infectious disease specialist originally from Sri Lanka who now works in Winnipeg, said people of colour and Indigenous people have been more severely affected by the pandemic, in terms of the numbers and severity of infections, and in lower rates of vaccine uptake.

"I felt it was important that maybe if they can hear my voice, maybe they'll feel a little bit more trust in the system and maybe we can push that number of vaccinations in that population a little more," he said.

The series includes 10 videos, each featuring an interview with one of the doctors addressing a different topic related to COVID-19. 

The other doctors featured in the series are Dr. Jared Bullard, head of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Manitoba, Dr. Denise Koh, a public health physician, and Dr. Eddsel Martinez, a pediatrician.

Topics covered include side-effects and allergies related to the vaccines, the fourth wave of the pandemic, COVID-19 and children, and facts about COVID-19 in schools and the workplace.

Heendeniya hopes that the series builds trust between diverse communities and medical professionals.

"We are not part of a system that's out to get anybody. We are really trying to promote good health, trying to help each of us out," he said.

The concerns people of colour have about the vaccines vary widely, Heendeniya said, and range from questions about what is in them to how they affect pregnant people or whether the vaccines are compatible with certain religious beliefs.

"[Black, Indigenous and people of colour] have been hurt more by this pandemic, and there is some hesitancy, so our goal is to help provide information for individuals so they can make informed decisions for both themselves and their families," said Ryan Funk, a spokesperson for U Multicultural.

The 10-episode series was funded by a community grant from the province. It can be found on YouTube and U Multicultural's website.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.