Data from the Manitoba government shows people of colour had exponentially higher rates of infection than white people during the third wave of COVID-19.
Dr. Marcia Anderson, medical lead of the province’s pandemic response team, said Monday there were a number of probable contributing factors, including more crowded housing.
“These could be due to differences in housing status, income status, occupational risks, underlying chronic disease rates or other different experiences,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the data was collected between March 31 and June 17, when Manitoba reported 18,808 individual cases of COVID-19. Roughly 76 per cent of those cases had information recorded about race, ethnicity, and Indigeneity.
She said the data shows those who self-identified as BIPOC were just over 21 per cent more likely to come down with the virus, and three to four times more likely to end up in hospital or the ICU.
And because the province’s vaccination rollout was largely age-based, Anderson said that means younger, more at-risk BIPOC people were often in line behind healthier, older white people.
Aside from addressing housing and income inequality over the long term, the government should in the future consider prioritizing persons of colour for vaccination, Anderson said.
Manitoba’s vaccines were rolled out primarily by age category, starting with older people.
First Nations persons, and later Inuit and Metis people, were prioritized by lowering age groups eligible for a vaccine by 20 years.
When the general public 60 and over was given the green light to get a vaccine in early April, for example, First Nations persons 40 and older became eligible.
Anderson said in the short term, officials may look at the data on vaccinations during the third wave to help better plan prioritization and timing of booster doses.
“We could look at this data and say for sure, there is an element that’s that’s age, that’s a congregate setting like a PCH, but also we’re going to take into account race and ethnicity in terms of how we’ve demonstrated this higher risk, which can be housing related or occupational related,” she said.
“And I think one way to do that would be to apply those same age differentials.”
As of Monday morning 50 per cent of eligible Manitobans 12 and up have received two doses of vaccine, and just shy of 75 per cent have received their first shot.
— with files from Skylar Peters and Shane Gibson
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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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