While research continues on how and why SARS-CoV-2 is wreaking havoc on BAME communities, various figures make for stark reading. A report published in September showed that black people are at twice the risk of death than white people. Similarly, people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage are 1.7 times as likely to die from COVID-19 than their white counterparts. Despite failures at each juncture of the crisis, the British government’s vaccination programme has hurtled at a world-beating pace. However, despite their higher risk of death, figures have shown that these same BAME communities have been hesitant to take the vaccine. A recent poll commissioned by the Royal Society of Public Health found that only 57% of BAME respondents would be willing to take the coronavirus vaccine, compared to 79% of white people.
Why the hesitance?
– “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male”
The study into the effects of syphilis left untreated in black men between 1932 and 1972 has left a major impact on popular vaccine uptake. Despite the widespread availability of penicillin, from 1947 onwards, subjects of the study were treated as guinea pigs for decades. More examples of such medical racism abound and are often cited by black people hesitant to take vaccines.
– Religious Concerns over Ingredients
Various surveys have shown that people of faith have concerns over the compatibility of vaccines’ ingredients with their beliefs. Muslim respondents have expressed concerns over vaccines containing alcohol and pork derived products. Also, Hindus have expressed concerns over vaccines containing bovine ingredients.
– Social Media Conspiracy Theories
With its widespread accessibility and the unchecked nature of its information dissemination, social media has also contributed to vaccine hesitation. If QAnon almost triggered a coup in America, what hope do historically disadvantaged minorities have, when it comes to a topic as complex as vaccination?
Hijabi Bhabhi’s Recommendations
To the Government: DO A HELL OF A LOT MORE.
It’s clear, from various government documents, that it was known that BAME communities would feel hesitant to take coronavirus vaccines. With deep-seated perceptions of historical medical racism, you’ve simply not done enough to counter them. Gradually increasing campaigns targeting BAME communities would, at the very least, show concern for them.
To the media: BUCK UP.
While the Black Lives Matter movement has had an impact on BAME representation in the media, again, I feel a lot more needs to be done. Social media has proven a fertile breeding ground for conspiracy theories. The coronavirus pandemic, and minorities’ hesitance to accept perfectly safe vaccines, have shown how important trust in traditional media is for public health.
To BAME communities: WAKE UP.
If someone is offering to save your life and those of your loved ones, isn’t it at least worth exploring your options? What matters more, correcting historical wrongs by leaping under a bus of your own volition? Or, and many of you won’t like me saying this, is dogma more important than thousands of lives?