A new study released this week has urged the UK government for more targeted campaigns after it found that ethnic minority groups, including British Indians, feel reluctant to take the vaccine to protect against Covid-19.
As the government revealed that the UK had covered nearly 138,000 people across the country in the first week of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine rollout in the country, the study commissioned by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) found that three in four (76 per cent) of the British public would take a Covid-19 vaccine if advised to do so by their doctor or health professional, with just 8 per cent stating they would be very unlikely to do so. However, it found that only 57 per cent of respondents from ethnic minority backgrounds were likely to accept a Covid-19 vaccine, compared to 79 per cent of White respondents. Confidence in vaccines was found to be lowest among respondents of Asian ethnicity, of whom only 55 per cent were likely to say yes.
Christina Marriott, Chief Executive of RSPH, said: “We have known for years that different communities have different levels of satisfaction in the NHS [National Health Service] and more recently we have seen anti-vaccination messages have been specifically targeted at different groups, including different ethnic or religious communities.
“But these are exactly the groups which have suffered most through Covid. They continue to be most at risk of getting ill and most at risk of dying. So, the government, the NHS and local public health must rapidly and proactively work with these communities. And their most effective ways of working will be with the local community groups."
The UK’s vaccine deployment minister, Nadhim Zahawi, warned of the impact of conspiracy theories being shared online.
He said: “People send WhatsApps, videos, all kinds of messages – if you don't know where that's coming from then it is very likely to be inaccurate.
“This is an incredibly well developed scientific endeavour and I would urge everyone to take the information, read it and then make your mind up.”
Earlier studies have shown that has a more adverse impact on minority ethnic groups in the UK, with working and living conditions largely believed to be behind the disparity of higher death rates among minority ethnic groups. Comorbidities such as blood pressure, obesity and diabetes are also believed to play a part in making those of South Asian ethnicity more susceptible to serious illness from the deadly virus.
Jabeer Butt, Chief Executive of the UK’s Race Equality Foundation, said: “These findings are not surprising in light of past experience of the reach of vaccines to BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] communities, but they appear to be particularly worrying as it suggests the Covid vaccine may not reach communities that have been disproportionately impacted.
“It is imperative that the NHS uses trusted channels like BAME-led voluntary organisations to reach and address concerns of BAME communities and ensure that the disproportionate impact of Covid is not exacerbated.”
The RSPH report highlighted the encouraging finding that BAME respondents who were not willing to be vaccinated were receptive to offers of further health information from their general practitioner (GP). Over one third (35 per cent) said they would likely change their minds and get the jab if given more information by their GP about how effective it is – almost twice as many as the 18 per cent of White people who were initially unwilling.
The RSPH said the latest findings build on a study earlier this year which found that parents in minority ethnic groups were almost three times more likely to reject a Covid-19 vaccine for themselves and their children than White parents.
The UK has been rolling out the in a phased manner, starting with the elderly and frontline workers as categories at the highest risk of death from coronavirus. With a number of other vaccines, including the vaccine being produced by AstraZeneca, in the pipeline, the government is keen to get the message out for a widespread uptake of the jabs as a means to emerge out of the current cycle of lockdowns to control the spread of infections.
The UK’s regulatory body Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has stressed that any vaccines will be cleared for mass rollout only after “rigorous” safety tests despite the process being speeded up due to the urgency of finding an effective vaccine against a pandemic which has wreaked havoc around the world.