Black, racialized communities removed from Phase 2 of Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine website due to 'error': government

Black and other racialized populations vanished from the online list of those eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 2 of Ontario’s rollout on Tuesday.

The removal was first discovered by Twitter user Simone Racanelli. Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist who sits on the province's vaccine distribution task force, would later take notice.

Speaking to CP24 Wednesday morning, Bogoch confirmed the absence of the group from the list. He said that while not an omission, the incident was “a little peculiar.”

“Someone brought it to my attention that it was actually erased from the website,” he said. “With a few quick emails to the right people, that [Black and other racialized populations] was re-added to the website.”

On Tuesday, the government confirmed it was “moving into” Phase 2 of its vaccination plan, which remains age-focused while also prioritizing those living or working in high-risk congregate settings, individuals with high-risk chronic conditions (and their caregivers), those who cannot work from home and at risk populations.

Research has shown that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Black and racialized communities throughout the pandemic.

Moreover, there is a documented hesitancy to vaccines among some Black Canadians and other racialized groups, due to historical medical malpractice against Black patients and anti-Black racism in the Canadian health-care system, which Bogoch says presents another obstacle in getting needles into arms.

“This is where you have to work very closely with your public health units that are implementing this, with your community-based organizations, with your community leaders, to really build trust and reduce barriers to make this accessible,” he said.

In an email to CTV News Toronto, Ontario’s Ministry of Health said the removal was the result of a “web copy error” and that the group should have “never been removed” from the list.

“It was added back as soon as it was brought to our attention,” a spokesperson for the ministry said. 

With files from CTV's Jeremiah Rodriguez