Reverend Andrea Anderson was the first person to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at the province’s first African Nova Scotian vaccination clinic on Thursday.
“I’ve been long awaiting this so I’ve been excited about getting this,” Anderson said.
The clinic was held at the Emmanual Baptist Church, a historic Black church that was founded in 1812 by refugee slaves.
“This is an important defining moment for me, for us today — to be here today on this ground,” said Anderson.
“Thinking of the historical discrimination and how it created disparities and inequities in health services, this is important for us to recognize that we as an African Nova Scotian community are receiving this vaccine.”
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The clinic was organized by the Health Association of African Canadians and is one of three clinics set up this month to bring vaccines to African Nova Scotian communities.
“We know that people in the Black community are vulnerable to COVID-19 and the adverse effects of the virus,” said Dr. David Haase, a member of the association.
“So it’s important to bring the vaccine to the community, to make sure the community has access.”
Dr. Haase says one of the biggest barriers for the vaccine rollout within the African Nova Scotian community is mistrust of the medical system, stemming from years of discrimination and racism.
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Mistrust of the system has also led to the spread of myths and misinformation about the vaccines. To address this, the Health Association of African Canadians has held specific town halls to share information about vaccines, has distributed newsletters and made calls to community members to inform them about the importance of getting vaccinated.
“Once you let people know the correct information, they understand and it makes a big difference,” said Dr. Haase.
“We had to have a culturally specific way of reaching out to people of African ancestry and also making them feel safe about coming into a vaccination process,” said Sharon Davis-Murdoch, co-president of the association.
“We knew that we were more vulnerable but our history and lived experience has made it difficult for many of us to trust the health system.”
Efforts have paid off with the first clinic being considered a success. 250 vaccines were made available, and all appointments were booked, with many signing on to a waitlist.
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Dr. Haase says if the demand is there they will consider looking at hosting more clinics in the future, but they are also encouraging members of the African Nova Scotian community to register at any clinic being offered in the province that’s available near them.
In addition to the clinic in Upper Hammonds Plain’s the Health Association of African Canadians has also organized two clinics for the Preston Township community next week, and they are looking at ways to expand the initiative to more rural Nova Scotian communities.
As for Anderson, she has a message for anyone who might be hesitant to get vaccinated.
“Don’t be reluctant,” she said. “When there’s a pandemic like this, we have an obligation to protect one another, I think it’s important to get the vaccine for those reasons.”
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