Dr Agnes Arnold-Forster, a medical and healthcare historian, told Express.co.uk that there exist historical reasons why vaccine uptake in BAME communities are so low which has led to a distrust of healthcare. Dr Arnold-Forster added that the vaccine passport proposal would be no different and may alienate people from complying to tackle future pandemics. The academic warned Boris Johnson that the success of tackling any pandemic, including coronavirus, is reliant on the medical history behind it and if people have a negative experience, it will be very hard to change their minds.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Arnold-Forster was asked if she thought vaccine passports were a good thing and whether they would work.
She said: “We know from centuries of public health research that punitive policies, policies that are associated with shame and fear and depriving people of good services and rights, don’t work in the long run.
“They actually just make people feel more excluded, more held hostage by the government interests and less likely to opt-in voluntarily and willingly.
“And it goes against everything I’ve just been saying about how important it is to meet people where they are and to explain more about the vaccine, to give people more of an opportunity to air their grievances and their anxieties and to meet those anxieties and concerns with evidence and compassion.
“That’s how they’re going to improve their situation, not by saying well if you don’t get a vaccine you’re no longer allowed to go to the pub with your mates, you’re just not going to get anywhere.
“And I would be very concerned with the Government influencing those sorts of policies.”
Earlier in the interview, the University of Bristol academic explained the fallout from the MMR vaccine and its false links to autism were influencing the COVID-19 vaccine today.
Orthodox Jews living in London, for example, have a much lower rate of vaccine uptake from their neighbours with a London School of Economics study finding the community still had concerns left over from the MMR rollout.
She explained that while the success of the UK vaccination programme could be a great opportunity to put healthcare scepticism to bed, she warned it also could be extremely damaging if done in the wrong way.
Dr Arnold-Forster did not support the rollout of vaccination passports and branded them “discriminatory” – especially in regards to travel.
She explained that implementing the documents for international travel – something many governments and businesses are likely to introduce – would discriminate against people from third-world or less economically developed countries who are struggling to get medical supplies.
The Government is currently reviewing whether the documents should be introduced as a way to control the spread of COVID-19 domestically and internationally.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an interview earlier this week that they would be coming “whatever” for international travel.
Dr Arnold-Forster continued and said it was important for the Government to listen to why people have vaccine hesitancy since there exists a spectrum of doubt.
The healthcare expert said that local leaders and GPs should be utilised to explain the vaccine to their communities to ease doubts.
She said only by the Government meeting people “half-way” would any doubts about vaccines be extinguished.