Shining a Light on Black Health and Wellness: Vaccinating the Northwest

February 10, 2022

By Sandra Sualim, President and CEO, Humber River Hospital Foundation

Sandra Sualim

Black History Month always brings a pause to reflect beyond the turbulence and racism of the past. Instead, think about celebrating the successes of black people. Black people are among those that are creating clarity in the gray areas to help push our healthcare system to an even better place. The efforts of allies and champions help reduce bias that ensure healthcare is provided without limitation.

COVID-19 put a spotlight on the inequities in our society. For the black community, it further raised worry and concern as the healthcare system struggled to balance out effective solutions. Ensuring that every group is represented and heard helps health and wellness take a front seat change-making for diversity, equity, and inclusion. We must think bigger and shed light on how different groups of people require different supports.

There is still tremendous distrust from many in racialized communities in terms of acceptance of the benefits of the COVID vaccine.

To support uptake, we changed our approach.  We held town halls to educate our communities on vaccine safety- our first town hall held for the Black Community during Black History month one year ago!  We changed our method of access at our vaccine clinic to a purely drop in based system.  We set up hyperlocal community clinics to meet the community where they were.  For example – we set up 6 vaccine clinics at a local mosque and 10 vaccine clinics out of a local church that has a large black community, which resulted in reaching thousands more people.

Most recently, we supported a large scale vaccination clinic called Vax the Northwest event at York University where we worked with our community partners and vaccinated nearly 1,700 people in just one day!  The trusted faces and voices that communicate to and educate the community members about clinics lead to improved success.