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Black Covid and in lockdown: In our own words

Shane Ward, CEO of West Bromwich African Caribbean Resource Centre

Between December 2020-June 2021, West Bromwich African Caribbean resource centre conducted community-based research to enable black African diaspora experiences of the Covid lockdown to be heard without qualification.

This was funded by the National Lottery. The full report and interview questions can be seen here.  

Methodology

Data and views were gathered using one to one semi structured interviews and facilitated focus groups using Zoom. In total we had 119 participants ranging in age from 18-88.

Principles and Background

The research area was chosen for two main reasons. Firstly, early into the lockdown (April 2020) our charity was asked how Covid-19 was affecting African Caribbean communities and we could only guess. The truth was that we had no clear data to back up our thoughts.

Secondly, an ONS survey (June 2020) suggested that black Caribbean populations displayed the highest levels of  vaccine hesitancy, but gave no explanation. It was imperative that the research was sufficiently in-depth to go beyond the surface and provide insights into the thinking behind responses and actions.

It needed to be:

  1. Independent
  2. Involve other black led agencies
  3. Multi-generational

What was discovered?

Information sources and key message

Most respondents got their information from Government briefings, mainstream national news outlets and official sources like the BBC and the NHS. Representation was important and black respondents were more likely engage with messaging if the information givers were from black African diaspora backgrounds. Social media had little influence on decision-making and behaviours.

Guidance and Support

Respondents felt they were best supported by the charitable / community organisations and churches. The NHS was also highly regarded for its support during lockdown.

Influences on decisions whether to take a vaccine.

  1. Across all ages, young people showed the highest level of being very unlikely or unlikely to take a vaccine when offered, citing fear around fertility and experimentation and mistrust of the system as major influencers in decisions not to take a vaccine.
  2. There was a relationship between type of residence and vaccine uptake, with owner occupiers more likely to declare that that would take a  vaccine than those in rented accommodation (private or social).
  • Males showed a higher level of indecision when asked about taking a vaccine but there was no gender difference in the levels when looking at those unlikely or very unlikely to take a vaccine.  
  • Birmingham residents were more vaccine hesitant than Sandwell residents.
  • The use of celebrities to encourage vaccine take-up was not a big influencer in getting those who were undecided to take a vaccine.
  • In addition to the perceived health protection benefits of vaccination, the biggest influences on the undecided changing to now agree to take a vaccine were friends and family who had already had a vaccine and the perceived limitations that not having a vaccine would bring e.g. in travel and employment. The level of change over time suggest that rather than being hesitant, many were waiting and seeing.
  • Respondents felt attendance restrictions for funerals hit bereaved families of African diaspora communities particularly hard, as cultural traditions around death, mourning and bereavement were restricted.  
  • Overcrowding was not a factor in the housing status of those interviewed and was unlikely to be a cause of higher rates of infection.
  • Many Black-led churches had difficultly fully embracing public health pro-vaccination messages, with the vaccine being compared to the “mark of the beast” as referenced in the Book of Revelations. 

Recommendations

Our report recommended work be carried out to identify the level of investment in black-led African diaspora community organisations that comes from public bodies by way of grants and contracts for services and infrastructure support.

We also recommended making better use of black-led churches to reach communities.

Context

This research was carried out at a time when the world witnessed the public murder of George Floyd by police officers in the USA and the rise of Black Lives Matter. Racial sensitivity was heightened by the reporting of racial disparities around Covid -19 death rates and the domination of Western industrialised societies in the worldwide vaccine roll-out. The Covid-19 response served to amplify the racial inequalities and disparities experienced by black African diaspora communities.

Shane Ward is Chief Executive of West Bromwich African Caribbean Resource Centre and co-author of this report.

Reproduction and use of content inside this report are prohibited without the consent of West Bromwich African Caribbean Resource Centre. Copyright © 2022