The independent London newspaper

Vaccine reluctance is rooted in a chronic lack of trust

11 February, 2021

‘The basic message, that we depend on each other to get the jab, is being lost’

FEEL like society is keeping you down? That you are marginalised? Is the world pitched against you?

Those who answer yes are unlikely to listen much to advice from any of our political leaders, these cardboard cut-out establishment characters on television, who are perceived as sustaining divides, poverty and lack of opportunities.

In the ever-expanding forum of the alternative media, those who simply question accepted wisdom are prized higher than the wagging finger of any government official or fact-toting scientist.

Distrust in our institutions, not just political, is perhaps higher than ever before. It is certainly true that many people voted for Brexit precisely because they got a letter through the door from David Cameron, at the time prime minister, advising them to do the opposite.

The government, and the NHS, face a similar problem in how to increase take-up of the vaccine in millions of disadvantaged and disillusioned people. “Medicine half-truths circulate well in a vacuum of mistrust”, radio host and actor Eddie Nestor told a panel looking into the reasons behind the low vaccine take up rates among black and ethnic minorities.

Finely polished conspiracy theory films circulating online and intriguing leaflets, which have been arriving through letter boxes of Camden residents this week, have been blamed. But the issue is far more deep-rooted than that.

The low take-up rates are most likely evidence of a reaction to decades of institutionalised racial discrimination and social divides coming home to roost.

It seems clear that mass vaccination is the most likely way we are going to emerge from this pandemic. But the basic message, that we depend on each other to get the jab, is being lost.

Communication is so important here and the corporate speak of politicians does not register with the man and woman in the street.

LGBT+ rights

LGBT+ History Month rightly makes us pause to consider those who continue to face prejudice on out streets every day.

Research has shown that elderly LGBT people, who are often isolated because they have no children to look after them and have had to separate from their families, have been harder hit by Covid.

The bloody image of Melania Geymonat and her girlfriend, named only as Chris, went around the world after she posted it on Facebook and described how a group of young men had punched them in the face on the top deck of the N31 bus at it passed through West Hampstead

Many people remember the horrible sight of the young couple who were beaten up on a bus in Camden Town, a hate crime. But the furore triggered by that shocking image of those two bloodied women soon faded away.

LGBT rights are not a given – and we should be thinking about that all year round.

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