Race, Distrust, and Vaccine Hesitancy
Carolyn McLeod (University of Western Ontario), Kharissa Edwards, Sinéad Osivwemu

October 21, 2021, 7:00pm - 8:30pm

This event is online



In the past year and a half, race and racism have been at the forefront of many people’s minds because of widespread Black Lives Matter protests and the disproportionately negative impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on certain racialized communities. But the underlying phenomenon is not only recent. For centuries, racialized communities across North America have faced social and environmental injustices.

Each year, the Rotman Institute of Philosophy and the Department of Philosophy at Western University organize a public lecture series in partnership with the London Public Library. The theme for this year’s lecture series is race & racism.

Oct 7 - Quayshawn Spencer: What is Race?
Oct 14 - Meena Krishnamurthy: When Racial Passing Becomes Racial Fraud
Oct 21 - Carolyn McLeod, Kharissa Edwards & Sinéad Osivwemu: Race, Distrust, and Vaccine Hesitancy
Oct 28 - Deborah McGregor: Indigenous Climate Justice, Nature Based Solutions and Self-Determined Futures

Join us online each Thursday in October from 7:00 - 8:30 pm. Visit our website to view talk abstracts and speaker profiles, and to register.


Some of the media concerning vaccine hesitancy lumps everyone who is vaccine hesitant together, describing these people as being lazy, selfish, or believers in conspiracy theories. But some vaccine hesitancy is borne out of racial injustice. We will discuss this sort of vaccine hesitancy and explain how one morally ought to respond to it while advocating for strict policies concerning vaccination.


Carolyn McLeod is Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Western University and a recently named Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Her areas of expertise include feminist philosophy, bioethics, and moral philosophy. She is internationally recognized for her work on the ethics of reproduction, parenthood, and adoption, and on key concepts in moral philosophy such as trust and autonomy. Her current research concerns the politics of distrust and belonging for marginalized social groups, including racial groups.

Kharissa Edwards recently received her Honours BSc at Western University in Biology & Medical Sciences, and she aspires to be a bioethicist or health lawyer. More specifically, she wants to pursue a career that tackles racial health disparities and exploitation in medicine. She formerly held the post of VP Communications for Western’s Black Students Association. During the summer of 2021, she completed an Undergraduate Student Research Internship (USRI) that focused on race and vaccine hesitancy and was supervised by Prof. Carolyn McLeod.

Sinéad Osivwemu is a third-year honours undergraduate student at Western who specializes in Genetics and who also has research interests in bioethics and the philosophy of race, culture, and ethnicity. She is the current president of the African Students’ Association, Vice President of Communications for Step Above Stigma, and Vice President of Events for Western Future Black Physicians. During the summer of 2021, she completed an Undergraduate Student Research Internship (USRI) that focused on race and vaccine hesitancy and was supervised by Prof. Carolyn McLeod.


  • Harriet Washington, Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
  • Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  • Maya Goldenberg, Vaccine Hesitancy: Public Trust, Expertise, and the War on Science

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October 21, 2021, 2:00pm EST

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