The uptake of coronavirus vaccines among all ethnic minority groups in the UK has tripled since February according to the most recent figures from HNS England which have been announced at a Downing Street press conference.
A major survey carried out by the UK Household Longitudinal Study in January found 42 per cent of Asian or Asian British individuals were ‘unlikely’ or ‘very unlikely’ to have the coronavirus vaccine and that 72 per cent of black people were wary of inoculation.
Vaccine deployment minister, Nadhim Zahawi speaking in February said: “It’s about vaccine confidence and sharing the information with voices from people they trust in their communities”. The government invested £23 million into local government to identify trusted voices within local communities that people will listen to. The intention was to share the information on how and why vaccines are protecting people and dispel the myths that had grown up around them.
Medical director of primary care for NHS England, Dr Nikita Kanani, told the press conference “really significant progress” has been made since the NHS set out its action plan to boost uptake among certain groups.
Dr Kanani told the press conference that concern around the uptake “feels really personal to me both as a GP and as a woman of colour”. She added: “Since we set out our plan in February, uptake from all ethnic minority backgrounds has tripled, outpacing the national average across all ethnicities”.
The progress has been attributed to a combination of NHS teams who know and understand their communities and trusted voices including community and faith leaders who’ve worked closely with the NHS. Other practical considerations about Ramadan and local factors have supported the campaign which has received strong vocal backing from high-profile people such as Bake Off’s Nadia Hussain, comedian Lenny Henry and TV star Adil Ray.
The latest NHS England data shows the uptake has increased among ethnic minority groups – from 1.89 million as of 7 February, to 5.78 million as of 7 April.
The uptake rose four-fold among Pakistani groups, from 88,956 to 367,780. and among Bangladeshi groups, five-fold from 29,382 to 152,408 over the same period.
The NHS England data also estimates that 61.6% of people of black Caribbean ethnicity aged 50 and over had received a first dose as of 7 April, this is the lowest proportion of all ethnic groups and compares with 93.8 per cent of those in the white British group.
For people over 50 from a Pakistani background, 73.1 percent are estimated to have received a first dose, this compares with 83.7 per cent of over-50s in the Bangladeshi group.
Dr Kanani, who appeared at the press conference alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said “our job is not done”. She said the NHS will keep offering first jabs as supply allows.
Responding to the press conference, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, Dr Layla McCay, said: “With more than 33 million people in the UK having now received their first jab and more than 10 million having received their second, NHS leaders and staff deserve to be immensely proud of the crucial role they are so efficiently playing in the nation’s fight against COVID-19. Particularly welcome is the news delivered by Dr Kanani about the dramatic improvements in vaccine uptake among those from ethnic minority backgrounds”.
Mr Johnson used the press conference to praise the progress of the vaccination programme and also announce the launch of an “anti-viral taskforce” to search for new medicines to treat Covid and offer support for their development through clinical trials.
The PM said: “The aim was to make them safely and rapidly available as early as the Autumn”, adding: “If you test positive there might be a tablet you could take at home to stop the virus in its tracks and significantly reduce the chance of infection turning into more severe disease.”
Dr Kanani said: “We want to make sure that nobody is left behind. So, I want to urge everyone eligible to join the millions already vaccinated to protect yourselves and others”.