London park with social distancing

Research and development COVID-19

“Of course we have questions”

17 May 2021
4 min read

As part of our vaccine knowledge portfolio, we're working with ClearView Research, an audience insight and strategy agency, to better understand the opinions of Black residents in Lambeth and Southwark.

Kenny Imafidon
Co-Founder and MD, ClearView Research

ClearView Research’s co-founder, Kenny Imafidon, shares key insights from their latest research looking at Black communities, vaccines and public health measures.


On 23 March 2020, the UK Prime Minister ordered people to “stay home” stating the UK could “turn the tide of coronavirus in 12 weeks”. Over a year later, we have experienced three national lockdowns, various restrictions and most recently the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.  

The current measures to ensure all UK residents are vaccinated by summer 2021 have been met with both compliance and scepticism. There are a number of education projects about the vaccine with the ultimate aim of increasing vaccine uptake. However, our research shows that the reason some people aren’t rushing to get the vaccine is because they have questions – perfectly legitimate ones too.

A rapid review of the literature

As part of this project, we conducted a literature review – across academic literature, grey literature and policy papers. This illustrated that the response to public health measures including vaccines by people from black, Asian and ethnic minority communities is often based on a number of factors, including trust of the system and the government, their understanding of the issue, the options available to them and their access to information, and their own views and values on healthy behaviour and healthy lifestyles. 

Accessibility and inclusivity are both vital to the success of public health campaigns as highlighted in the literature. Including local people through community-oriented approaches and working in partnership is key to ensuring messaging resonated with people as well as an important way of engaging communities. Similarly, strategies that illustrate an understanding of cultural values, beliefs and views were also shown to be effective.

I’m highly sceptical of the whole medical industry

A local resident

Listening to Black communities in Lambeth and Southwark

As part of this project, we conducted focus groups with Black residents in Southwark and Lambeth to understand their views on the pandemic, the vaccine and health in general. When looking at trust, we explored trust in motives and trust in competence.  

Trust in motives was defined as trust in the system that produces the vaccines, which in the UK is a complex network and collaboration between the Government, the pharmaceutical industry, and the healthcare system.  

Trust in competence however focuses on confidence in the science and the scientist’s technical abilities. Our focus groups found a general mistrust in both motive and competence.

As someone who has had the vaccine I expect that if something was to go wrong in the future, my white counterpart would receive better treatment to address whatever the issue is than I would. But it is a risk I also had to weigh up and consider (before taking the vaccine) that someone else wouldn’t. How is that fair?

A local resident who had received a COVID-19 vaccine

There was a general feeling of being “pressured and controlled” by the Government, and concerns about restrictions as a result of rumoured vaccine passports and the impact this may have on their ability to commute and work.  

study conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine showed that out of over 9000 respondents from across the UK, only 5% thought that people and their health were the Government’s priority with over 60% stating that they thought the economy was being prioritised.  

What this means for the COVID-19 vaccine 

When it comes to vaccine uptake, we must remember that mistrust plays a bigger role in increasing doubt and fear than misunderstanding. We need to acknowledge and address the deep-rooted reasons for this mistrust within these communities, which include several layers of institutional racism, negative experiences within the healthcare system and unethical clinical trials. Education alone is not enough for direct behavioural change. 

It is a big ask from a community that has not been treated well in the past and now you’re asking us to take this magic vaccine. Of course we have questions.

A local resident

As individuals continue to weigh up their options to take the vaccine or notit’s important to truly appreciate why some people are unsure about taking the vaccine and to listen to and address their questions. This would allow us to start meaningful conversations to address the deep-rooted and valid mistrust that exists and then create impactful, practical solutions to be implemented system-wide consistently. This is how trust is rebuilt.

Read the 'Black Communities, Vaccines & Public Health Measures' literature review

Read the findings from ClearView Research's report

Download as PDF (9.43 MB)