Updated: Mar 7, 2021
Wide-spread reporting from national media titles on negative attitudes to vaccinations in BAME communities seem to miss a far more textured and layered story.
After 3 national lockdowns, months of school and socialising missed and as yet unaccounted economic damage, the world seems to be looking to vaccination as the route back to ‘normality’.
Since the first signs of coronavirus in December of 2019 and January of 2020, medicine has been working across borders on incredibly short timelines to develop a safe, effective vaccine as soon as possible. Since then, 9 different vaccines have been authorised by several national regulatory authorities. In the UK as of January 2021 we have begun to rollout the first wave of distribution for the general public. The program prioritises the elderly, those considered high risk for health reasons, and those in high-risk professions like healthcare.
Councillor Obajimi Adefiranye, Brockley Ward addresses Lewisham residents
Still, the shortened timeline has proved cause for concern for many; the spread of both information and disinformation across news outlets and social media has left a great deal of us unsure. We have especially heard voices of apprehension surrounding the BAME communities.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has warned the Daily Mirror, he is “worried about the BAME communities,” in relation to their infection rates and vaccine uptake, and the government's scientific group for emergencies (SAGE) has also warned of a 'significant risk' that vaccine uptake for COVID-19 will be lower among minority ethnic groups, according to: https://www.gponline.com/gps-raise-alarm-low-uptake-covid-19-vaccine-bame-patients/article/1704790.
Reasons given across stories stretch from religious to general mistrust in the content of the vaccines and reputation of the manufacturers, specifically Pfizer.
Dr Antoinette Augustine, Jenner Centre, Forest Hill GP explains the importance of vaccination for "shielders"
At the Jenner Centre in Forest Hill, the vaccination site for the Lewisham borough, we can [expectedly] report nothing but positive feelings from Black and Asians in attendance.
In fact, the only voice of doubt came from a single Caucasian man. Outside the walls of the Centre however, there is a complexity to the testimonials we received. There is no way to effectively homogenise ‘BAME’ across cultures, ethnicities, religion, geographical location and generation.
Across interviews and conversations we heard a range of highly personal and specific reasons regarding opinion to the vaccinations.
A source of Central Asian heritage in South London describes their elderly grandmother being steered from vaccination by one relative while being subtly steered back toward it by another.
Caution was expressed by several young to middle-aged men of Caribbean backgrounds, one bringing up the history of Western medical science being weaponised against black and brown populations, referencing the Tuskegee Syphilis Study of the 30s and 70s.
Disagreements in this matter span across familial lines. Another man of a comparable age and background reported similar misgivings on the interests of Western establishments, while his elderly mother and aunties, working in care, seemed enthusiastic and encouraging about the procedure and their own vaccines.
As with many issues of the kind, there is no single attitude across the British Black and Asian communities, which is so wildly diverse.
What can be noted is a possible distinction between those attitudes and that of the white western populations, who historically have a very different relationship with such proscribed procedures.
A primary care network in North Staffordshire confirms that the rates of people from 'BAME' communities not attending their vaccination were 10 times higher than the UK national average, and a Royal Society for Public Health survey found that 'BAME' groups were less likely to want the COVID-19 vaccine, according to: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-55333513.
Whether there is a significant difference across region, or generation, there is a broad diversity of attitudes across Black and Asian communities that apparently isn’t being accounted for in much of the reporting at large.
If you have a confirming or contrasting quote, or an opinion of your own, we are interested in broadening the discussion and steering away from 'us and them' borders.
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