While 79 percent of white citizens will do so, only 57 percent of minority-ethnic people have stated any desire to be vaccinated, according to a survey conducted on behalf of the Royal Society for Public Health. These statistics reflect the level of resentment and suspicion that has been stoked by a government and media that refused to even entertain the notion that ethnic minorities might be bearing the brunt of the coronavirus, despite the much higher levels of infection they suffered and their much higher death toll.
My own uncle died of Covid-19, and, like many black and Asian people in the UK, I have been bitterly disappointed by the indifference – contempt, in some quarters – shown towards those who’ve tried to point out the disparities in how different communities have been affected by the virus.
From the very beginning of this pandemic, people from ethnic minorities have been massively over-represented in their frontline exposure to the virus. Be it as bus drivers and ticket inspectors on public transport, as checkout staff at supermarkets, or as cleaners, nurses and doctors in the NHS, they have been disproportionately vulnerable to infection in the course of providing the essential services that kept this country ticking over.
In addition to this, minorities in Britain are mostly located in congested urban areas and are far more likely to live in extended families, with several generations living in one household, adding exponentially to the transmission rate.
Along with obesity and age, race is now recognised as one of the three biggest factors in whether someone survives the illness. Only 10 percent of Britons are from an ethnic minority, but, as far back as April, almost 35 percent of critically ill coronavirus patients were from minority-ethnic backgrounds – even when in ICUs they had a significantly lower survival rate – and 70 percent of NHS healthcare professionals who died of Covid-19 were also from the BAME community. Black people are twice as likely to become infected as white people, and once infected are twice as likely to die from it.
Ethnic minorities have effectively been decimated for adhering to familial loyalty and contributing most to this country’s efforts to battle the pandemic and keep the economy moving. Yet throughout the past 10 months, they have been callously ignored, even decried for “playing the race-card”, when drawing attention to the horrors the virus has wreaked in their communities, with no policies or resources having been put in place to assist them with their far-higher-than-average susceptibility. Being given supposedly ‘equal treatment’ with white people in this pandemic has essentially secured them a death sentence.
Given their experience this year, why is it surprising that they are much more suspicious of being vaccinated than white people? For many, the words of the government ring especially hollow at this moment in time, their faith in its proclamations having been entirely eroded. Having been fobbed off with weak and discredited claims that insufficient vitamin D intake among the dark-skinned was the cause of their suffering, and hearing politicians and commentators single them out for criticism, accusing them of not taking lockdown seriously – while white people crammed the beaches like sardines – is it really any wonder that ethnic-minority people are less inclined to believe the government is concerned with their welfare as it begins the process of rolling out a vaccine?
Anti-vaccination propaganda is being spread through WhatsApp rumours targeted at specific minorities, but the fertile ground in which such lies can flourish has been laid by a government and right-wing press that, in a combination of outright scorn and heartless deafness, has given the impression that black and Asian lives are worth much less than white ones in a pandemic.
Having received such a harsh and unsympathetic response to their loss and anguish, and having had their legitimate questions go unanswered, mistrust among the ethnic minority community about any official line from the establishment is now understandably high – hence their sense of caution about any vaccine.
I have no doubt that common sense will prevail and they will ultimately opt to receive the jab like everyone else. But, in the meantime, given the enormous sacrifices they have made and the inordinate burden they have borne – economically, physically and mentally – to get the country this far, Britain should reflect on the way it has treated them this year. It has been nothing less than shameful.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
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