A new study has found that South Asian Canadian communities living in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) suffered disproportionately from COVID-19 in the first year of the pandemic.
The analysis, which received $1.5 million from the federal government, confirmed that the Peel region was Ontario’s COVID hotspot in the pandemic before April 2021, when vaccines began rolling out.
Some 23.6 percent of the province’s cases during the second wave of the pandemic were within Peel, despite the region only accounting for 10 percent of Ontario’s total population.
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Dr. Sonia Anand, principal investigator of the study from the Department of Medicine at McMaster University, says that for part of the research, people whose ancestry originated in the Indian subcontinent and live in GTA were recruited.
In a study of 916 such residents, screened between April 14 and July 28, 2021, for pre-vaccine COVID infections, about 24 percent had features in line with a person who had the virus circulating in their home. system.
“So this report provides a kind of quantitative data of what people believe to be true: that South Asians in the Peel region had a high rate of infection with COVID 19,” Anand told Global News.
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The probe, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) Openit also touches on the sociodemographic factors or social determinants of health that put certain ethnicities at higher risk of contracting COVID compared to the general population.
Anand says the data suggests there are “social disparities” in Peel because a large number of participants identify as essential workers, such as truck drivers and individuals working in plants, living in extended family households of lower socioeconomic status. low and annual family income.
Seropositivity, the presence of an immunological marker in a blood test, was higher for male participants who were rated as the least educated test subjects and who resided in the city of Brampton.
“It really seems to reflect that people who have to do essential work (are exposed to) a higher chance of infection or live in larger family homes,” Anand said.
“We also looked at some of the reasons behind that: maybe they can’t take days off from work or in the Peel region there were difficulties in accessing testing from the start.”
The study results are expected to be used in future waves of COVID, such as the seventh expected in the fall by Hamilton Public Health, prioritizing health care resources for at-risk communities.
Dr. Catherine Hankins, co-chair of Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF), says the research was funded to get a “clearer picture” of the factors underpinning the vulnerability of the South Asian community. .
“Understanding the factors that made any community or region a COVID-19 hotspot will not only help us manage future pandemics, but the insights can also inform Canada’s continued efforts to achieve more equitable health outcomes across the country. the population,” Hawkins said. in a sentence.
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Future segments of the study are expected to survey populations to determine the impact of prolonged COVID on similar survey subjects.
Overall, Anand insists the study “summarizes the point” that inequities in terms of access to health care exist across Ontario.
“I hope that our data adds to the facts showing that the Peel region and South Asian populations represent a high-risk community for future waves and… will be prioritized by the provincial government as a community in need of more care resources. medical,” Anand said. .
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