health

When even my key-worker mother started to question the vaccine, I had to act | Romesh Ranganathan


While the general uptake of the coronavirus vaccine has been great in the UK, with 76% of the general population saying they would take the jab when offered it, this figure drops to 57% in the imperfectly named BAME communities – and to 55% in Asian communities specifically. I have to confess to finding this frustrating and sad. In a world in which there are already enough degrees of separation enforced on people of colour, this willingness to add another is incredibly upsetting.

I recently participated in a video organised by the actor Adil Ray, in which we tired to dispel some of the myths about the vaccine. But while the response was overwhelmingly positive, there were people who kicked back: they said it was patronising – how was a video made by a bunch of celebrities going to make people suddenly decide to have the vaccine? There were even suggestions that we had been paid to support a government agenda.

First, I wasn’t paid, and if the others were, I would appreciate it if they could let me know, as I need to have a word with Adil. Second, I do agree with those sentiments: I, too, understand that it seems fanciful to think that watching me or any of the others talk about the vaccine is going to make anyone more inclined to take it.

The truth is, I don’t know what else to do. I know from speaking to my mother, who is a key worker alongside a workforce consisting of a high proportion of ethnic minorities, that there are loads of conversations about potential side-effects, its ingredients, and whether it can be trusted. She started to express doubts, so I talked her through those, and managed to convince her that having the vaccine was the lowest-risk option. I realise that people are distrustful of the government (and if you are from an ethnic or impoverished background, then it is understandable why); but the other option is to contract the virus, which is easily the worst one.

There are people who may believe that this is a scheme by the government to tag you, or poison you, or keep tabs on you. My immediate counterargument would be to point out the level of competence the government has shown when organising things openly; the idea that it would be capable of putting something together that would require that level of forethought and sophistication seems improbable. There may be others who believe that the whole thing is a hoax, in order to instil fear as a control mechanism. I would love to hear more on this, so please contact me to elaborate at Romesh@i-think-you-are-a-tinfoil-hat-wearing-weirdo.com.

The administering of vaccines has actually gone quite well, in a way that has surprised everyone (probably including the government) and it would be a shame if people from ethnic minority backgrounds excluded themselves from being part of it. I completely understand the cynicism towards actors and comedians offering their view: why the hell should anyone listen to medical advice from someone in the public eye? (Although some people still seem happy to consider themselves highly educated on a subject just because they spent an evening looking at some internet forums.) In response, I would say that I’m only telling you what I told my mum, and she said she almost definitely trusts me,. Just not as much as if I’d become the doctor she wanted me to be.



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