By Ole Christiansen
The head of the NHS, Sir Simon Stevens, said in February that there is a “pandemic of disinformation” (Hurynag, 2021). The disinformation is related to the BAME community’s reluctance to take the covid vaccine. This is due to lack of trust, and wilful misinformation (Woolley, 2021). BAME individuals have a lack of trust in the government along with their associated agencies. Lord Woolley described the importance of this issue: “But without a doubt Boris Johnson’s government has shown a blindside to the depth of race inequality, that if unchecked will cause a generation of mistrust that will only worsen.” (Woolley, 2021).
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought economic and social problems and has also exposed already existing structural and systemic disparities within countries and globally (Kama-Kieghe, 2021). These effects will likely linger for many years after the pandemic is over. Currently, one of the most important tools to fight the pandemic is vaccines. The success of the vaccination program relies entirely on the general population’s acceptance that the vaccines are effective and safe. However, there is an increased hesitancy and reluctance to be vaccinated. In the UK this especially affects the BAME community (Kama-Kieghe, 2021).
We have all heard about “anti-vaxxers” who have been around forever, along with people who don’t even believe in the coronavirus. This, however, is a very different issue. People in the BAME community have genuine concerns at the root of their vaccine hesitancy (Kama-Kieghe, 2021). The distrust, in some cases, stem from individual and group experiences of healthcare and others relate to inclusion and access to credible information (Kama-Kieghe, 2021). It’s experiences of being treated differently or maybe even ignored that develop into distrust of the system. Another factor is that ethnic minorities are under-represented in clinical trials. This results in some people not trusting the results of the studies since none of the participants share any similarities to them (Kama-Kieghe, 2021). Another related problem is the long history of using minorities as guinea pigs for scientific experiments. We saw this for example in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study where black people were being experimented on without their knowledge or consent. That study lasted 40 years (Kama-Kieghe, 2021).
The reluctance towards vaccines have led governments to create video campaigns in an attempt to appeal to the hesitant group. However some believe that these campaigns fail to address the relevance of the legacy of discrimination that many of these communities face is being ignored (Morgan, 2021). Winston Morgan, Director of Impact and Innovation, University of East London, describes the issue in his article for The Conversation:
“There is also no doubt that the reach of COVID-19 misinformation has widened in BAME communities because of their specific sensitivities and concerns. The lived experience of far too many under the BAME umbrella is one of fragile trust in the government and NHS. This lack of confidence in the state creates space for less reputable players – such as anti-vaxxers, who spread misinformation to discourage people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine – to target these groups.” (Morgan, 2021).
The issue is without a doubt concerning. Data shows that twice as many white people as Black people in the eligible categories have been vaccinated (O’Dowd, 2021). This becomes even more concerning when thinking of how structural racism can explain how Black people are disproportionately more likely to be infected and then die from the virus (Morgan, 2021).
BBC News, 2021. Commercial TV channels unite to screen Covid vaccine myth-busting video. [Online]
Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-56101990
Hurynag, A., 2021. COVID-19: ‘Progress’ made on vaccine hesitancy amid ‘pandemic of disinformation’, NHS chief says. [Online]
Available at: https://news.sky.com/story/covid-19-progress-made-on-vaccine-hesitancy-amid-pandemic-of-disinformation-nhs-chief-says-12218667
Kama-Kieghe, S., 2021. How GPs can tackle vaccine hesitancy in BAME communities. [Online]
Available at: https://www.gponline.com/gps-tackle-vaccine-hesitancy-bame-communities/article/1707882
McGuinness, A., 2021. COVID-19: ‘Tsunami of disinformation’ around COVID jabs, vaccines minister says. [Online]
Available at: https://news.sky.com/story/covid-19-tsunami-of-disinformation-around-covid-jabs-vaccines-minister-says-12219595
Mercer, D., 2021. COVID-19: Why are people from some ethnic minority groups in the UK less likely to take a coronavirus jab?. [Online]
Available at: https://news.sky.com/story/covid-19-conspiracy-theories-and-mistrust-behind-low-vaccine-uptake-in-some-ethnic-minority-groups-12216851
Morgan, W., 2021. Poor vaccine take-up in BAME communities is not just down to hesitancy. [Online]
Available at: https://theconversation.com/poor-vaccine-take-up-in-bame-communities-is-not-just-down-to-hesitancy-155691
O’Dowd, A., 2021. Covid-19: Black people over 80 in England are half as likely as white people to have been vaccinated. [Online]
Available at: https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n357
Razai, M. S., Osama, T. & McKechnie, D. G. J., 2021. Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy among ethnic minority groups. [Online]
Available at: https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n513Woolley, L., 2021. Lack of trust and wilful misinformation is causing BAME communities to reject the Covid vaccine. [Online]
Available at: https://www.politicshome.com/thehouse/article/lack-of-trust-and-wilful-misinformation-is-causing-bame-communities-to-reject-the-covid-vaccine