Midlands has vaccinated more people against Covid than other regions
Government must improve communication with ethnic minorities about vaccines because nearly THREE QUARTERS of black people say they won’t get a jab, SAGE warns
- SAGE said UK must try to improve historically low uptake in non-white groups
- Survey showed 71.8% of black respondents said they were ‘unlikely’ to get jab
- But ethnic minorities are more likely than white people to die of Covid-19
- Doctors fear fake news about what is inside the vaccines is putting people off
British officials must try harder to get Covid vaccines to ethnic minority people because more than half of black people could turn them down, SAGE has warned.
In a paper published today by the Government Office for Science, scientists told ministers that vaccine uptake in the past has been lower in non-white communities.
And they said extra effort should be made to improve this now because of the desperate need to get as many people as possible vaccinated against coronavirus.
Low trust in the health service or scientists, fears about safety and difficulty getting access to vaccines have blighted acceptance rates in black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, researchers said.
Further complicating the problem is the fact that the same ethnic groups are more likely to die of Covid-19 than white people, so it is extra important that they get a jab.
SAGE said ministers should make sure there is equal access to for vaccines for all ethnic groups and cultures, and that efforts should be made to produce ‘culturally relevant’ advice, get local community leaders to help explain the science and tackle people’s concerns, and make sure everything is available in multiple languages.
It comes as doctors warned that fake news about vaccines containing meat or alcohol, or changing people’s DNA, is putting Asian people off getting jabs.
And one of the country’s most senior imams is running a campaign to encourage Muslims to get vaccinated because he’s concerned that low uptake could fuel Islamophobia if people blame ethnic minorities for slowing down the roll-out.
The UK has already vaccinated 3.2million people against Covid-19 and is reportedly aiming to double this figure next week as it hurtles towards a target of 13.9m by mid-February (Pictured: A man gets vaccinated in St Albans, Hertfordshire, today)
The paper presented by SAGE included the results of a survey which showed a shocking 71.8 per cent of Black people said they were unlikely to get a Covid-19 vaccine if offered one
Writing in the report, SAGE members said: ‘Within previous national vaccination programmes in the UK, reported vaccine uptake has been lower in areas with a higher proportion of minority ethnic group populations.
‘There is a significant risk that vaccine uptake for Covid-19 will also be lower among minority ethnic groups.
‘Barriers to uptake must be understood and addressed within the Covid-19 vaccination programme.’
The scientists included results from the UK Household Longitudinal Study, which is run by the University of Essex.
The study showed that a shocking 71.8 per cent of black people said they were unlikely to get a Covid vaccine if they were offered one.
Black and black British was the group least accepting of a vaccine, the survey found, but 42 per cent of people of Pakistani or Bangladeshi descent and 32 per cent of mixed race people said the same thing.
By comparison, other Asian people – including ethnic groups from the Far East and the Middle East – had the lowest levels of scepticism, with 86 per cent saying they would be likely to get a jab.
This put them ahead of white British people, on 84 per cent. Non British white people were slightly more sceptical, with 26 per cent saying they would be unlikely to get vaccinated.
The researchers said that the barriers putting ethnic minority Brits off getting vaccinated included: ‘perception of risk, low confidence in the vaccine, distrust, access barriers’ and ‘lack of communication from trusted providers’.
To improve these and encourage more ethnic minority people to get vaccinated, they called for better public information campaigns directed at them.
They urged ministers to produce ‘multilingual, non-stigmatising commiunications… including vaccine endorsements from trusted sources’.
Officials and local representatives should clarify with people whether specific vaccines are suitable for dietary requirements or ethical values of different religions.
And health workers and scientists should help local people to understand the safety benefits and risks of getting vaccinated, encouraging people to get the jabs to protect themselves from Covid-19.
Vaccines should also be offered to everyone in an easily accessible way so that they can get the jab in a familiar place near their home, SAGE said.
The paper has been published as doctors have warned that fake news spreading about vaccines online could be putting off Asian people specifically.
Dr Harpreet Sood, a Global Digital Health Advisor, said language and cultural boundaries are partly responsible for the false material spread via social media and WhatsApp which claims that the jabs may contain animal products or alcohol, or have the ability to change people’s DNA.
And Leeds-based Imam Qari Asim, who is chair of Mosque and Imams National Advisory Board, said he was encouraging Muslim people to get vaccinated.
He was concerned that if there was low uptake among ethnic minorities it could fuel racist blame for slowing down the roll-out.
Dr Sood is working on an NHS anti-disinformation campaign with South Asian influencers and religious leaders to disprove myths about the jab.
Much of the false information appears to be targeted at Muslims, who do not drink alcohol or eat pork, and Hindus, who consider cows to be sacred.
He told the BBC: ‘We need to be clear and make people realise there is no meat in the vaccine, there is no pork in the vaccine, it has been accepted and endorsed by all the religious leaders and councils and faith communities.’
He added: ‘We’re trying to find role models and influencers and also thinking about ordinary citizens who need to be quick with this information so that they can all support one another because ultimately everyone is a role model to everyone.’
Around 100 mosques are using Friday prayer meetings to raise coronavirus awareness and dispel myths around vaccinations, and imams have agreed to be filmed being vaccinated in a bid to ‘inspire confidence’ in their communities and show that jabs are permissible and halal.
Imam Asim said: ‘Some of the campaigns that have been run – we are seeing that because of the webinars, people are changing their views on these vaccines and there is a greater uptake of these vaccines in the Muslim communities.
‘Misinformation can result in someone losing their life and it is one of the core principles of Islam that protection of life is extremely important.
‘My message to Muslim communities is that it is our ethical obligation, moral duty to take the vaccine whenever the opportunity arises.’
HOW HAVE REGIONS FARED IN VACCINE ROLL-OUT SO FAR?
NHS England and Public Health England data for vaccination first doses up to January 10:
# of people vaccinated
% of local population vaccinated
% of over-80s vaccinated
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