Fact check: The British government is not targeting BAME communities for coronavirus vaccine trials

A video viewed tens of thousands of times on social media has falsely suggested the British government is “coming for” Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) communities to trial COVID-19 vaccines that the video alleges have already killed people.

Britain's Secretary of State of Health Matt Hancock arrives at 10 Downing Street, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in London, Britain, April 30, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

The post, from mid-June, includes a clip of British Health Secretary Matt Hancock announcing at a daily coronavirus briefing that a joint committee had recommended “priority vaccination” for frontline health and social care workers, and “those at increased risk of serious disease and death from coronavirus” (here , here , here , here).

This included, he said, adults over the age of 50, and those with heart and kidney disease.

“As we learn more about the virus, we’ll continue to take into account which groups may be particularly vulnerable – including, for example, those from ethnic minority backgrounds, so we can protect the most at-risk first, should a vaccine become available.”

Following this clip, a black woman addresses the camera and asks: “Why should your vaccines be trialled on me and my people? Why? Africa, wake up, we’ve already had people dying from the trial vaccines.

“We’re not a vulnerable group when it comes to getting jobs, access to jobs, getting better healthcare, getting better social housing. During this pandemic, most of us are cramped up in houses with more than four people in.

“They didn’t find us as a vulnerable group then, but for the vaccination they do. They want us to be the first to have access to it. Wake up people, especially Africans – they’re coming for you. Wake up, please.”

The speaker makes a number of false claims, including about people dying after being administered with a COVID-19 vaccine. Such claims have been debunked by Reuters here and here).

Reuters has also debunked a claim that the United Nations planned to test vaccines in Africa (here).

As of mid-June, 2020, no vaccines against COVID-19 have been approved for use. There are currently 142 potential vaccines being developed around the world – 13 of which have reached human trials. These trials are being carried out in China, Germany, Russia, UK and the US (here).

Hancock did not say vaccines would be trialled on BAME communities, but rather that people from ethnic minorities could be among several categories of at-risk people who should be protected first if a vaccine became available.

An official study published on June 2 said Black and Asian people in England were up to 50% more likely to die after being infected with COVID-19 (here).


Partly false. BAME groups in the UK are being considered for priority vaccinations when one is approved for use, due to statistical evidence showing these communities are more at-risk from coronavirus. However, it is false to say the government is targeting these communities for trials of vaccines that have killed people.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work  here .