Systematic racism in healthcare boosted COVID-19 vaccine mistrust in Black communities: study

Faculty of Social Sciences
Black community

By Paul Logothetis

Media Relations Agent, University of Ottawa

Black man wearing protective mask
uOttawa’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Black Health survey reveals scope of coronavirus vaccine hesitancy in Black communities in relation to healthcare.

The health care system must play a significant role in combatting COVID-19 mistrust among Black individuals in Canada according to a new University of Ottawa study that found distrust in the healthcare network was so profound that educated individuals were hesitant to receive the vaccine.

Professor Jude Mary Cénat, Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at the Faculty of Social Sciences, is the Chair of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Black Health, which leads research focused on racial disparities in health and social services and led this study.

Data shows that Black communities were the least vaccinated against COVID-19 yet were the most affected by the global pandemic in terms of infection and mortality in Canada and the West. Black communities saw 2.2 times more deaths from COVID-19 despite having the same access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Key factors contributing to this mistrust included:

  • Education: Surprisingly, the level of education was inconsequential in relation to COVID-19 vaccine jabs since even those with professed educated admitted mistrust.
  • A lack of COVID-19 themed literature geared specifically to Black communities.
  • Experience of racial discrimination lived inside hospitals and within the healthcare network.
  • Age: Black individuals between 14-34 were less likely to be vaccinated.
  • Income level; and
  • Belief in conspiracy theories.

Of Interest
Black individuals with a familiarity of health resources and literature (health literacy) were more likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19. But these same individuals were less trustful of COVID-19 vaccines and Canada’s health resources if they had experienced systematic racism or discrimination from within the health network.

Research Impact
The link between systematic racism in the healthcare network and lagging COVID-19 trust must be addressed by:

  • Addressing and finding solutions to combat systematic racism within the healthcare system; and
  • Creating credible and resourceful healthcare literature that will boost confidence in COVID-19 vaccines in these communities.

Vaccine mistrust among Black individuals in Canada: The major role of health literacy, conspiracy theories, and racial discrimination in the healthcare system, by Jude Mary Cénat, Seyed Mohammad Mahdi Moshirian Farahi, Schwab Mulopo Bakombo, Rose Darly Dalexis, Roland Pongou, Lisa Caulley, Sanni Yaya, Josephine Etowa, Vivek Venkatesh was published in the Journal of Medical Virology on April 24, 2023.

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