For Eugene Anderson, getting his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday was about doing his part to beat the disease.
The 62-year-old was among 250 people who had appointments to receive a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Upper Hammonds Plains, a community outside Halifax, at the province's first clinic specifically for Black Nova Scotians.
"A lot of people in the community don't get outside the community so being able to bring it here for them, there's no excuse, so I'm really happy about that," Anderson told reporters moments after he received a jab in the arm.
"The spread of this disease is no joke, and any way shape or form that it can help with not spreading, I think is such a positive thing."
The vaccine clinic, open to people 55 and over, was held at the Emmanuel Baptist Church, an historic church founded by Black refugees in 1812.
It was a "defining moment" for the community, said Rev. Andrea Anderson, the first person to get a shot on Thursday.
"As a reverend of this church, and thinking about the historical discrimination and how it created disparities … in health services, this is important today for us to recognize that we, as an African Nova Scotian community, are receiving this vaccine," she said.
Sharon Davis-Murdoch, co-chair of the Health Association of African Canadians, said it's important to provide culturally specific supports so Black communities feel safe about the vaccination process.
She's been working since the start of the pandemic to provide education and services to Black Nova Scotians who are disproportionately impacted by the virus.
"When you look at the social determinants of health, and the impact of systemic racism ... we knew that we were more vulnerable, but our history and our lived experience has made it difficult for many of us to trust the health system," Davis-Murdoch said.
Community volunteers help with recruitment
That's why volunteers worked with the Association of Black Social Workers to reach out to community members to let them know about the clinic and to answer questions.
"Fortunately we were full a few days ago, so we went way past the number that we thought we were going to reach, which was a good thing," long-time community volunteer Gina Jones-Wilson told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Thursday.
She was one of the people who helped recruit people to come to the clinic, largely through word-of-mouth and using social media.
Jones-Wilson said the pandemic has had a big impact on her community of Upper Hammonds Plains.
"It kind of shut us down," she said. "We're a small community outside of Halifax with no transportation so most of our activities and programs, we have to bring them in-house, and of course with the pandemic that kind of stopped everything."
She turns 60 this summer and said along with helping others, she was excited to get her own dose of the vaccine at the clinic on Thursday.
The next clinic for Black Nova Scotians is scheduled to take place next week in the Preston area.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
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