The Diocese of Southwark’s leading black clergy have released a video today urging those in the UK Minority Ethnic (UKME) community to allay their fears and suspicions and to take the COVID-19 vaccination when they are offered it.

The Bishop of Woolwich, The Rt Revd Dr Karowei Dorgu, himself a former GP and hospital doctor, believes this lack of trust is deep-rooted, “Historically, during the slave trade, blacks were used as guinea pigs for genomic research and they were not told about it. In the U.S. they were used for Syphilis research, for example where many of them lost their lives through the process,” he said.

He also cites conspiracy theories from fundamentalist American Pastors denying the existence of the pandemic, and therefore the need for the vaccine and the misinformation that it is the “End Times mark of the Beast.” 

“Fear and mistrust can make a huge difference in a community. When there is fear people can act completely inappropriately and irrationally. So a lot of the irrational behaviour we are seeing is being fed by the fear of the unknown, misinformation and lack of trust,” he said. “My wife recently received the vaccine and I’m waiting patiently for mine,” he continued.

Archdeacon of Croydon, the Venerable Dr Rosemarie Mallett has a medical research background and trusts the science behind the vaccine. “I believe the vaccine is safe. My own mum recently received it. Far too many of our people have disproportionately died from COVID. They are at increased risk because many work in areas where the potential of catching the virus is higher. I’m urging anyone who has doubts about taking it to do the research for themselves rather than listening to the conspiracies. Go to online information meetings and find out. Ask your doctors questions. The information is there and so are the answers. They are not found in rumours and conspiracy theories,” she said.

“Thinking as a medic, we always say prevention is better than cure.  It is better to prevent yourself from having the condition than to have it and then to try to treat it which is more devastating to the body. Vaccines prevent us from catching the real thing. When you take it, you’re not only going to protect yourself, you’re going to protect your family, friends and community and you will save the NHS from the trouble it is going through,” said Bishop Karowei.

Revd Jean Yearwood, a retired Senior Midwifery Manager, recently received the vaccine. She has been vocal on all her social media platforms as well as to friends and family who ask her for advice, about the importance of taking it, “I encourage everyone and anyone who will listen that it is a lifeline for people around the world to the deadly Coronavirus that is ravishing people. I also tell them that Covid-19 has no mercy on anyone and the NHS is in a very precarious position.  We need to act now before suffering anymore,” she said. Jean was dissuaded by people she knew not to take the vaccine because of her health challenges, “My response has been that because of these health problems, I should be the one of the first people to accept it,” she said.

An online forum addressing questions about the vaccine within the UKME community has been organised by the Diocese of Southwark’s Woolwich Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns Committee and is open to all. It takes place on Thursday 28 January, 7.30pm to 9.30pm

Leading Epidemiologist, Dr Tolullah Oni will be answering questions. She is an urban epidemiologist at the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge and an expert on viruses as they affect the UKME communities. The forum will be held on Zoom and the link will be sent to everyone who has registered.

Register here: 

Bishop Karowei and his wife Dr Mosun Dorgu, will be panellists at an online event on Wednesday 27 January, 7.00pm to 9.00pm, entitled COVID & Vaccines Facts vs Fiction, organised by the Medical Association of Nigerians Across Great Britain. It will be held on online. To register visit or contact [email protected]

Watch video here