Ontario needs a shot in the arm


As we face wave after wave of this COVID cyclone, it’s no wonder many people feel like they’re treading water just to get by. As the number of COVID cases – and variants – continue to rise, it’s become clear that lockdowns and restrictions can’t keep us afloat.

Ontario’s best shot at recovery starts in the arm. If we want to get back to more normal times, we all must get on board.

There’s no doubt that lockdowns and emergency brake shutdowns helped buffer the impact. They’ve saved lives and prevented our health care system from being overwhelmed. It is also true that they’ve damaged people’s livelihoods. Fortunately, COVID vaccines are now being rolled out across Ontario and throughout Canada. The vaccines are our best path toward recovery and, eventually, prosperity. The health of our people and our economy depends on a successful rollout.

And with millions of doses of the COVID vaccines being delivered to Canada, we can finally see calm waters ahead. Why then, can’t everyone see the answer in the horizon?

The simple answer is a lack of trust and it’s leading to a secondary pandemic called vaccine hesitancy – it’s deeply problematic and it can prolong the crisis.

The problem is, we don’t have time to waste on this – people’s lives and livelihoods hang in the balance. That’s why overcoming vaccine hesitancy quickly is crucial. But in order to do that, we must understand the reasons behind it. Simply discarding people’s concerns isn’t going to do the trick.

We need to get a handle on why there is such a pervasive lack of trust.

Naturally, questions, confusion, and scepticism will arise in times like these – some of it’s even valid. For example, Stats Canada has reported that vaccine hesitancy is higher among Black and certain racialized communities. That’s no great surprise considering that gross racial inequalities still exist in our health care system. It’s no small barrier to overcome.

Racialized communities don’t need judgement, they need support – like access to information that is culturally relevant and that comes from a trusted face, in a trusted, and safe space.

That’s why leadership matters.

Community pillars have an important role to play in stepping up to support the vaccine rollout; in winning over the hearts and minds of those who look to them for guidance, insight and wisdom; and in saving people’s lives and livelihoods.

As First Vice-President/Treasurer of OPSEU/SEFPO, I promise to do my part. As soon as I’m eligible, I’ll be first in line with my sleeve rolled up and ready. With power comes great responsibility, and I take my responsibility very seriously.

But none of us are alone. With more than 180,000 members in our union family, we are a force to be reckoned with. Our actions matter and we have the collective power to shape our communities and our province for the better.

Our actions make a difference. That’s why as leaders in our union and in our communities, I ask every member of OPSEU/SEFPO, and every front-line essential worker, to do the same – get vaccinated, speak to others and support them too. We are trusted voices, so we must use our voices for good.

Getting through the COVID crisis will take us all pulling together. Navigating the seas of misinformation won’t be easy either. After all, science is more complicated than internet memes and anecdotes.

And the science is clear – vaccines save lives.

There’s an old expression that says the truth doesn’t mind being questioned. A lie does not like being challenged.

Well folks, the truth is on our side. Yes, questions will be asked, but we must face those head on; to meet people where they are, with kindness, patience and understanding.

Our best shot at recovery starts in the arm but getting there means winning over hearts and minds. The best way out of this is together.

In solidarity,

Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer

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