Wed, 20 July 2022 at 10:00 pm
It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Someone at the BBC decided that one way to demonstrate the corporation’s commitment to impartiality would be to make a programme featuring people who have declined to have the Covid vaccine. But the result was so patronising that they shouldn’t have bothered – and I say that as someone happily triple-vaxxed.
Unvaccinated (BBC Two) saw seven strangers invited to share a house, as if this was Big Brother sponsored by Pfizer. Prof Hannah Fry was the host, there “to discuss the issues and their views”. What this really meant was that Fry would try to change their minds by explaining to these people, in a lovely, soft tone of voice, that they were wrong.
Fry made sympathetic noises and said she understood their fears. Yet towards the end she went to a London hospital, where a consultant said that 95 per cent of Covid admissions to intensive care were unvaccinated. “When I hear facts like that, it feels like such a slam-dunk,” said Fry. If the motive was to persuade people to get the vaccine – people who presumably have heard these sorts of statistics before but rejected them – then that description wasn’t going to help.
The programme did at least feature a range of reasons for not getting the vaccine. Chanelle said the black community has a long-standing mistrust of the medical establishment. She was also pregnant and worried about the effect a vaccine might have on her unborn child. Luca believed in 5G conspiracy theories. Mark worked in a care home and believed that he should not be forced to have the vaccine under threat of losing his job.
Then we had Nazarin and Vicky, who were zealous anti-vaxx campaigners. Vicky was one of those people who aggressively pressed her point, to the discomfort of more polite members of the group. But if you disliked her manner or her views – she was also vehemently anti-lockdown – it was still hard to disagree when she scoffed at Fry’s attempt to explain the statistical probability of serious side effects by playing “jelly-bean roulette”, as if the contributors were six-year-olds.
And Nazarin was quick to pull up Fry for bringing up Luca’s conspiracy theories about the war in Ukraine, which was an unsubtle way of suggesting that he would fall for any misinformation that came his way. Nearly four million adults in the UK remain unvaccinated. I doubt this programme changed any minds.