COVID-19 and the exacerbation of health inequity and inequality

A body of research has identified significant health inequities and inequalities found in low- and mid-income groups compared to high-income groups.* Inequities and inequalities experienced in low- and mid-income households include the inability to access a wide-range of healthcare services by community-based healthcare service providers. Health inequities occur when there are unfair avoidable differences, whereas health inequality refers to the uneven distribution of healthcare resources and services. Other inequities and inequalities experienced by low- and mid-income groups include the cost and efficacy of care. These disparities may become exacerbated during a public health crisis, such as the novel coronavirus pandemic of 2019.**

*Income groups as defined by the World Bank and the World Health Organization.

**Also referred to as SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 or coronavirus pandemic of 2019.

COVID-19 severity and mortality among ethnic minorities with comorbidities

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a time of uncertainty for many individuals around the world. Evidently, the necessity for research during this time is essential for understanding the virus and its impact on populations.

Our research focuses on the impact of pre-existing comorbidities on COVID-19 severity and mortality among ethnic minorities globally. Often, ethnic minorities are affected disproportionally by diseases due to their environment, socioeconomic status, and underlying health conditions. As a result, the purpose of our research is to identify the comorbidities and socio-demographic factors that worsen COVID-19 severity and mortality among these populations. Identifying these factors will allow us to understand the conditions and inequities that worsen health disparities.

Our current research aims to create a systematic or scoping review that can be used to guide further research and policy decisions about health inequity. Future plans include studying the long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in ethnic minorities.

COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

The evidence demonstrating the benefits of immunization is overwhelming. It is one of the most successful and cost-effective interventions that has saved countless lives and improved health and well-being around the globe. However, misinformation and rumours around vaccines have occurred around the world, spreading quickly and sometimes seriously eroding public confidence in immunization, ultimately leading to vaccine hesitancy and refusals as well as disease outbreaks.

Our research team focuses on addressing the critical issue of vaccine hesitancy -especially in the era of the COVID-19. We have recently completed a scoping review to determine the prevalence of intention to use the COVID-19 vaccine among adults and to identify the demographic, social, and contextual factors that influence the intention to use COVID-19 vaccines. This review can help policy makers to develop guidelines and policies to address vaccine hesitancy issues in the general population.

Our future plans include further research focusing on addressing the vaccine hesitancy among vulnerable groups such as refugees, immigrants and marginalized populations. Another upcoming topic of interest will be focusing on social media monitoring methods and interventions relating to vaccine hesitancy.

What Demographic, Social, and Contextual Factors Influence the Intention to Use COVID-19 Vaccines: A Scoping Review

Digital disease surveillance for emerging infectious diseases

Emerging infectious diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Ebola virus and most recently, Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) are a significant threat to public health and economies globally. These epidemics result in increased usage and consumption of media by the general public for information. In particular, internet searches for health-related information about COVID-19 and social media to express opinions, perceptions, and attitudes towards various topics regarding COVID-19 is increasingly being used by the general public. Analyzing people's internet search behaviour regarding health-related information and social media use can guide real-time surveillance of emerging diseases and help predict epidemics.

A digital surveillance system would act as an early warning system and help public health authorities and hospitals to plan and respond to emerging infectious disease threats. This research is funded by OMNI/RÉUNIS' (One Health Modelling Network for Emerging Infections) network through the NSERC-PHAC Emerging Infectious Diseases Modelling Initiative (EIDM).