‘ The risk of taking the vaccine is far less than the risk of getting COVID-19 ‘ – Dr. Akwatu Khenti

Dr. Akwatu Khenti

Dr. Akwatu Khenti , Chair of the recently established Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity, says many people in the Black community are reluctant to take the COVID-19 vaccine because of misinformation and rumours and distrust of the health care system.

In an interview with The Caribbean Camera, he pointed out that many  fear that they may become guinea pigs by taking the vaccine which was only recently developed.

The Trinidad-born Special Advisor to the City of Toronto’s Targeted COVID Equity Action Plan, said he has met Black people who have  expressed concerns that the vaccine may alter their DNA or infect them with the coronavirus or HIV and that it may contain fecal matter.

” I listen respectfully and then I asked them to give consideration to other issues,”  he said.

Dr. Kenti, an Assistant Professor with the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. pointed out that that ” the risk of  taking  the vaccine is far less than the risk of getting  COVID-19.

“That’s my big point.” 

“He went on to explain  that “the  people who are on the Task force  are  experts in vaccine production and they know the issues and can speak to the type of methods that were used to develop the vaccines.

” They can also speak to the quality of the vaccine, to the ethical aspects of the way they was developed  and the clinical trials and they could  disprove some of the myths surrounding the vaccine in a very scientific way.

 “It is just a question of having people listen to the science.”  

Dr. Khenti noted that the ultimate aim of the Task Force is ” to reduce positivity rates, hospitalization rates and mortality rates.

“And in order to do those things we have to engage with community members at multiple levels around  key issues  in respect to testing  and safety practices which include preventative measures such as the vaccine and social isolation, if and when one should test positive.”

The task force, in conjunction with several community organizations–including the Black Health Alliance (BHA), the Canadian Multicultural Inventors Museum and Harriet Tubman Institute, Women’s Health in Women’s Hands and TAIBU– is co-hosting  a series of  virtual town hall meetings to address concerns in  the Black community related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first meeting which focussed on the historical and contemporary issues of trustworthiness vis-à-vis vaccines and medical science was held on Saturday.

Toronto Mayor John Tory has noted that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted certain communities in  the city, including Black residents.

Tory said  “a targeted approach was necessary to not only ensure that those who need support are receiving it but to further stop the spread of the virus ”

The task force is scheduled to present a  report of its findings and recommendations to the City of Toronto by April 30.