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TV Eddie: ‘Low vaccine take-up is political’

Actor and presenter says ‘there’s no genetic reason why more black people should be dying of Covid’

09 February, 2021 — By Tom Foot

Eddie Nestor spoke out during an online discussion organised by Westminster City Council. Photo: eddienestor.com

EDDIE Nestor told experts on a council panel investigating the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on black people: “The problem is not medical, it’s political.”

The actor and radio and TV presenter spoke out on Wednesday night at the Westminster City Council-organised online discussion chaired by Simon, Lord Woolley.

The event was organised to discuss low take-up of the new vaccines among black and ethnic minority groups. The worrying statistics have been blamed on “fears, lies and myths” circulating online – but the meeting heard the issue was more deep-rooted.

Mr Nestor said that “medicine half-truths circulate well in a vacuum of mistrust”, and he added: “There is no genetic reason why black people should be dying more.

“So we should be looking at the type of jobs they do and where they go.

“Every single health expert I have spoken to has told me the number one reason why people are not complying to the rules, such as they are, is the fear of not being paid. The security worker, the person who works in the shop, the cleaner…

“I turn to this, because this is not medical, it’s political.

“…the main reason people are not complying is [thinking if] they don’t go to work they will not get paid. Well, all of us in this meeting are getting paid. How do we say to people, don’t you go to work – get vaccinated? It’s about trust.”

He added: “The BBC the NHS, the Met police, these are all state-owned institutions within which there are huge numbers of disparities; lack of opportunities, opportunities for promotion. That’s the state – not individuals.”

Lord Woolley

He continued: “I would never disagree with a doctor because I am not a doctor. But there are many people who don’t think that way and don’t feel lucky to live in Britain.

“When you want to think of something in a negative way, then almost everything that happens compounds that which you already think. I talk to these people and I say to them you disbelieve those you don’t trust and believe people you don’t know.”

Speaking of conspiracy theory films and literature circulating online, he said: “The videos are being produced very well. They look as though someone has put time and effort into it.

“This isn’t Russia trying to interfere in the American elections. These are people who don’t trust the government themselves. It is not some outside influence.”

The panel was chaired by Lord Woolley, and included Professor Ken Fenton, regional director of Public Health England, Dr Sonya Abraham, National Institute for Health Research, and the leader of Westminster Council Rachael Robathan.

Professor Fenton told the panel “racial inequalities are ingrained” in the Covid-19 pandemic, adding: “We have been through such a tough year, lockdown after lockdown. We need to put an end to this cycle. Look at the information, on data, how to protect yourself. Be part of protecting your communities.

“Because I depend on you, and we depend on each other.”

Lord Woolley said: “We all know the devastating impact in London and across the country, but particularly to BAME communities.

“When we saw black and brown faces on our screens that lost their lives, our heart sunk.

“Then we saw that we were more ill, and dying in greater numbers. This second wave has come and we are still disproportionately affected.

“What is equally worrying is that we have a number of vaccines and doctors’ surgeries and yet there is a great hesitancy among many in our communities.”

Dr Abraham said: “I don’t think it’s something that just occurred for Covid. Sadly this is in human nature. There’s always going to be the non-believers. Uptake in our community was low even before Covid.”

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