Asians Reluctant to Take Vaccine Against Covid-19, Says UK Study

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Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups, including people of Indian-origin in the UK, are reluctant to take the vaccine against COVID-19, a new study said on Wednesday, urging the UK government to initiate more targeted campaigns. As the UK has covered nearly 138,000 people in the first week of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine rollout across 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, 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 BAME backgrounds (199 respondents) were likely to accept the 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, the study says.

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, said Christina Marriott, Chief Executive of RSPH. 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," she said.

Earlier studies have shown that COVID-19 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 BAME 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.

These findings are not surprising in light of past experience of the reach of vaccines to BAME communities, but they appear to be particularly worrying as it suggests the COVID vaccine may not reach communities that have been disproportionately impacted, Jabeer Butt, Chief Executive of the UK's Race Equality Foundation, said in reference to the latest survey. 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, he said.

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 polling also revealed significantly more hesitancy among lower income groups, with just 70 per cent of lowest earners likely to say yes to the jab compared to 84 per cent of highest earners.

Last week, the UK began administering the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine 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 Oxford University 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 repeatedly 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 the pandemic which has wreaked havoc around the world.