Board of Health asking for provincial support for marginalized communities
KITCHENER -- Waterloo Region's Board of Health is calling on the province to provide additional support for marginalized communities dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The motion was passed at a Board of Health meeting on Tuesday evening.
In November, data from Waterloo Public Health showed the pandemic was disproportionately impacting Black and racialized community members, along with people living with low incomes.
“We know that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted so many people in our community,” Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry said in a news release. “Support from the province’s High Priority Communities Strategy would help us implement a range of interventions to slow transmission in those higher risk communities and protect our most vulnerable.”
Public health officials said they've launched a self-isolation program for people who need somewhere to stay to recover from the disease. The federal government provided funding for a 54-room program over a 15-month period.
The region said it's working with community partners to identify needs, like mobile testing and assisting with groceries and other essential services.
“Racially diverse, newcomer and low-income communities have been impacted more significantly by COVID-19 than others,” said Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang in the release. “These types of supports will help reduce barriers for these communities to accessing services and employing COVID-19 prevention measures.”
The board also discussed concerns about COVID-19 vaccination delays. The region's task force is still working to make sure long-term care and retirement residents get their second doses of the shot within 21 to 27 days. Eligible residents had received their first doses by the end of last week.
A limited supply is expected next week, which will be distributed as second doses in those homes.
"Until we understand the supply and stability of supply, that is the direction we are moving," WRPS Dept. Chief Shirley Hilton said. "No vaccines will be for first vaccines, it's all dedicated to second dose for long-term care homes and high-risk retirement homes."
Hilton said anyone else waiting for their second dose will get it within 42 days.
The Moderna vaccine has yet to arrive in Waterloo Region.
Board members also raised questions about how vaccines will be distributed to other at-risk communities in later phases.
"Do we see ourselves doing any mobile clinics, perhaps anywhere in the community, where these residents live, in order to ensure they have equitable access to the vaccine," Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said.
Dr. Wang said it will be an accessible process.
Two delegations at the meeting asked councillors directly what would be done to address the inequities.
"That responsibility should not be on our communities and that responsibility needs to be on public health," said Lang Ncube. "As of right now, we are tired of having to save ourselves."
With reporting by CTV News Kitchener's Krista Simpson