Publication date: Jan 17, 2024
This article analyses a set of videos which featured public figures encouraging racially minoritised people in the UK to take the COVID-19 vaccine or get involved in related research. As racially targeted health communication has both potentially beneficial and problematic consequences, it is important to examine this uniquely high-profile case. Using a purposive sample of 10 videos, our thematic content analysis aimed to reveal how racially minoritised people were represented and the types of concerns about the vaccine that were expressed. We found representations of racialised difference that centred on ‘community’ and invoked shared social experiences. The expressed concerns centred on whether ethnic difference was accounted for in the vaccine’s design and development, plus the overarching issue of trust. Our analysis adopts and develops the concept of ‘racialisation’; we explore how ‘mutuality’ underpinned normative calls to action (‘ethico-racial imperatives’) and how the videos ‘responsibilised’ racially minoritised people. We discuss two points of tension in this case: the limitations for addressing the causes of mistrust and the risks of reductivism that accompanied the ambiguous notion of community. Our analysis develops scholarship on racialisation in health contexts and provides public health practitioners with insights into the socio-political considerations of racially targeted communications.