As the UK’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout enters its next phase, research has revealed that one in 10 Britons of colour would refuse to have the jab.
With plans to reopen society gaining momentum and the UK’s vaccine programme receiving much praise, one key difficulty that has emerged is the stark disparity in vaccine uptake among black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) Britons.
The study by YouGov explored attitudes towards the vaccine and showed that 10% of BAME people say they would not get vaccinated, a figure which rises to 18% among Pakistanis and 19% among black people. By contrast, a separate survey showed that only 6% of white Britons would refuse the vaccine.
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There is also a noticeable difference between the proportion of BAME people who remain unsure about getting inoculated,16%, and the 8% of all people who feel the same way.
Overall, 59% of BAME people said they would get the vaccine and 14% said they had already been vaccinated (although this latter figure is lower than the 26% it is for all Britons).
Nearly half of the BAME people who said they would not have the vaccine (45%) said they would refuse it due to lack of information. Almost two in five said they believed it was unsafe (37%) while a quarter said they didn’t trust the science behind it or simply did not want it (26%).
Evidence that minority ethnic people are at elevated risk of contracting and dying from Covid compared with their white counterparts is well established. Data last month revealed a huge disparity in vaccine uptake between areas with high and low BAME populations, and ministers were criticised for failing to act more urgently on the disparities.
The government has been urged to offer vaccines door to door in hard-to-reach, deprived and minority ethnic communities amid fears that coronavirus could become a disease of poverty.
More than 20 million people in the UK have had a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. This includes nine of out 10 people aged 65 and over, but the NHS is aiming to encourage as many people from BAME groups to take up the offer.
Saliha Mahmood, who is an NHS doctor and won MasterChef in 2017, said it was imperative to talk the language of these communities.
“As an NHS doctor but also as a woman and mother from this community, I hope to use this platform to spread a positive message around vaccination as far as possible,” she said.
The NHS had offered all those in the first four priority groups a vaccine by the middle of February and are now working through the remaining groups.
Last week plans being considered by the government to force all NHS and care staff in England to get vaccinated was criticised as “sinister” and likely to increase the numbers refusing to have the jab. Meanwhile, Habib Naqvi, the director of the NHS’s race and health observatory, said a mandatory Covid vaccination policy, could be discriminatory, widen inequalities and increase workplace bullying and harassment.
Latest figures show that more than a fifth of London’s frontline healthcare workers have not received the first dose of the vaccine. The figures from NHS England show that while 93.1% of healthcare workers in England had received their first dose by 28 February, in London the rate is just 78.7%.
The same trend is apparent among care home workers. In London, 57.9% had been vaccinated over this period, compared to the national rate of 72.9%.
London also lags behind other regions in terms of general vaccination rates, with just 85% of the 70-plus population vaccinated, much lower than the national rate of 97%. London’s rate for this group remains unchanged from the previous week, suggesting clinical commissioning groups in the capital have moved on to younger age groups.
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