SASKATOON -- Higher vaccine hesitancy persists among Black Canadians when compared to the general public, with Latinx, Arab, and Métis people also relatively unwilling to get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Statistics Canada.

New research found that when it came to a willingness to get jabbed, visible minorities overall (74.8 per cent) are fairly comparable to the overall population (76.9 per cent). But there are several outliers, which could be cause for concern for public health workers.

When it came to Black Canadians, only 56.6 per cent of those surveyed were very or somewhat willing to get vaccinated, with only 68 per cent of Arab Canadians and 66 per cent of Latin Americans saying they’d get a shot.

“I think what we need to do is talk about more of the positive results of the vaccine from all of the studies of Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson,” Calgary-based Dr. Omid Pour-ahmadi, who regularly works with Latinx patients, told in a phone interview on Thursday.

Pfizer recently reported that its COVID-19 vaccine is around 91 per cent effective at preventing the disease; with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine reducing severe COVID-19 disease by 85 per cent and preventing 100 per cent of COVID-related hospitalization or death.

Pour-ahmadi estimates he works with 80 per cent of the city’s Latinx population, from places such as Chile, El Salvador and Colombia, and has had to quell vaccine worries from his patients.

He said what is driving fear is the recent news of extremely rare allergic reactions from vaccines and reports of blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine, which caused provinces to temporarily suspend its use for those under 55.

“People don’t remember all the good news, they only remember the bad results more than anything,” Pour-ahmadi said. “And of course, they’re thinking ‘Oh my gosh, am I going to be next?”

He urged public health authorities to do more to help patients to see the potential side-effects from vaccines as similar to the small risks people accept when they drive or take pain medication.

The latest findings on vaccine hesitancy among the Black population are in line with other surveys done in the U.S and Canada. Public health workers say the reason for this is a combination of medical malpractice against Black patients historically and ongoing racial inequalities in the Canadian health-care system.

But Pour-ahmadi, who has experience in public health, says none of these trends are irreversible.

“In reality, it will do more good than harm to get it,” he said, encouraging people who are hesitant to reach out to their family doctor “and discuss some of these fears that they have. Let’s get the fear out, let’s get the worries out.”


Statistics Canada findings, based on Canadian Community Health Survey data from September to December 2020, also found that in contrast to the overall population, certain racialized groups had a greater willingness to get the COVID-19 shot.

A higher proportion of the South Asian population (82.5 per cent), Korean (85.6 per cent), Japanese (86.5 per cent) reported a greater willingness to get vaccinated than everyone else.

Also of note was that Indigenous people overall are only slightly less willing than the overall population to get the shot -- with seven out of 10 saying they’re very or somewhat willing to get vaccinated (Inuit and First Nations people living off-reserve were in the same range).

This appears to confirm other research that found there was no link between colonialism and residential schools to vaccine hesitancy among Indigenous people. Public health outreach efforts across the country so far have included having Indigenous elders get jabbed to encourage those on the fence, and setting up pop-up clinics in larger cities where Indigenous people live.

But the outlier among Indigenous populations was that only 67.8 per cent of Métis people surveyed were willing to get vaccinated. However, Pour-ahmadi reiterated that more education is the best route.

“I think we need to provide the population with the right information, not fearful information,” he said. “We have to create a new culture, you got to focus more on the good than the bad because right now, anxiety is all over the place.”