Understanding the Impact of Institutionalised Racism to Vaccine Hesitancy
Bunch, L. 2021. A Tale of Two Crises: Addressing Covid-19 Vaccine Hesitancy as Promoting Racial Justice. HEC Forum 33, 143–154. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10730-021-09440-0
This case study raises the question of how institutionalised racism might have impacted vaccine hesitancy – confidence, convenience, and complacency – to black and white communities differently. It is relevant to designing, conducting, reporting and disseminating research sensitive to inequalities and it is included in Sections 3 and 4 of the HIAT Resources.
Vaccine hesitancy has been recognised one of the serious challenges in our collective effort of coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite complex reasons behind vaccine hesitancy, the popular media and policy discourse in Britain often associates vaccine hesitancy with particular religious or ethnic groups, or people who live in deprived areas. Whereas in the USA, as American public health researcher Lauren Bunch (2021) pointed out, media portrayals of vaccine hesitancy often depict it as a phenomenon exclusive to white communities, which is also misleading. Explaining the discrepancy that Black Americans report higher levels of fear of COVID-19 than their White peers yet they also report higher levels of hesitancy toward a COVID-19 vaccine, Bunch applied the lens of institutionalised racism and how this might have impacted vaccine hesitancy – confidence, convenience, and complacency – to black and white communities differently.
Although Bunch (2021) did not go beyond looking at how then the varieties of mistrust are different within the black and white communities (e.g. by gender, socioeconomic statues, religion, education etc.), she came up with useful practical recommendations for public health officials and health educators. These are 1) boosting transparency aided by accessible communication, 2) openness about uncertainty, 3) increasing accessibility by addressing barriers to vaccine uptake, and 4) establishing critical distance between pharmaceutical companies and the public.