Channel 4, Monday 31st January 2022 10pm or stream now on All4
At the beginning of the pandemic, Reporter Seyi Rhodes noticed that some social media messages casting doubt about vaccines and the severity of Covid, were targeted at people of colour. They implied that black and brown people shouldn’t trust Mainstream Healthcare because of terrible racist medical experiments that happened in the past.
Seyi sets off to uncover those historical stories that did so much to damage trust. In Alabama he learns of a notorious syphilis study where African American men were denied treatment and simply observed as their disease progressed; he uncovers another case where a 19th Century gynaecologist perfected his surgical technique on enslaved women, without anesthetic.
He discovers how the British ran brutal experiments to see how mustard gas affected Indian skin, how Africans were used in pharmaceutical trials for ground for life-saving drugs, but when Africans needed the same drugs themselves, they were unaffordable; and the surprising story about how the hunt to find Bin Laden used a fake vaccine program to obtain DNA samples from his hideout. Bin Laden was found and killed but it also resulted in a terrible loss of trust in vaccines, and public health.
Then after delving into the history of these events, Seyi learns the uncomfortable truth that in an online information war, anti-vaxxers are exploiting these episodes of racist medical experiments and trials from History, to persuade people not to take the Covid vaccine today.
Back in America, home to many of these damaging stories, Seyi meets a man with a mission: to acknowledge the damaging History of the past, in order to win back trust. Backed by the White House and President Biden, he’s turned 1000 barbershops into places where vaccine hesitant people talk and listen, and if they want to, even get the vaccine after their hair cut!