Prince Charles appeals to ethnic minorities to overcome vaccine reluctance

Aditi Khanna
·3-min read

London, Feb 18 (PTI) Britain's Prince Charles, who recently got his vaccine dose to protect against COVID-19, on Thursday issued an appeal to the country’s ethnic minority communities to follow his lead when called by the National Health Service (NHS) to get vaccinated.

The 72-year-old royal was addressing a special virtual event organised by the British Asian Trust, his South Asian diaspora led charity which had launched an emergency COVID-19 appeal last year.

The intervention follows data indicating a lower uptake of vaccines among certain communities in the UK, including South Asians, due to a mix of mistrust and doubts over the safety of the jabs.

“It is clear that the virus has affected all parts of the country and all sections of society but it is also clear that there are particular challenges faced in particular sections of our society, especially in some ethnic minority communities,” said the Prince of Wales.

“What saddens me even further is to hear that those challenges are being made even worse by the variable uptake of the vaccines, which finally offers a way out of the suffering of the past year… vaccination will save lives, will prevent serious illness, will protect our health service and will allow us to start to hope that things might return in some sense to normal for every member of our society,” he said.

UK Vaccine Deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi’s message that no “corners were cut” in the rapid deployment of the vaccines was reiterated by Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India, who joined the virtual event from India to talk through his company’s collaboration with Oxford University to manufacture vaccines that are soon likely to be exported to the UK as well.

“The important silver lining to focus on is that these vaccines protect against severe disease against all variants of coronavirus,” he said.

Dr Nikki Kanani, a general practitioner (GP) and NHS medical director for primary care, addressed doubts around the ingredients within the vaccines.

“There are no animal products within these vaccines and it is absolutely safe to take them. It does not impact fertility and offers strong protection,' she said.

Data made available this week by OpenSafely, a study run by the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, highlighted the ethnic variations in the take up of Covid vaccines.

Within the South Asian cohort, Indians and British Indians were found to be in a slightly higher uptake range of 83.4 per cent of those eligible having received their jabs as of February 11. This compares favourably to 93 per cent among the British or Mixed British category.

The lowest uptake was noted within the black communities at 51.2 per cent, followed by Pakistanis at 62.9 per cent and Bangladeshis at 63.7 per cent.

“Targeted activity may be needed to address lower vaccination rates observed among certain key groups: ethnic minorities, people living in areas of higher deprivation, and those with severe mental illness or learning disabilities,” notes the study, based on anonymised medical records covering 40 per cent of GP practices in England.

Several community-led drives have been underway across the UK to counter misinformation around the safety and efficacy of the vaccines currently being administered by the National Health Service (NHS) – the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs. Temples, mosques, gurdwaras and churches have been mobilised as vaccination centres as part of efforts to create greater trust within the communities.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel is among the frontline Cabinet ministers regularly making visits to these religious hubs to reiterate the importance of people to get vaccinated when invited by the NHS.

“When you get that call from your GP, when you get your text message, come to your local vaccine site and take the jab and get vaccinated. It’s safe, it’ll protect you, it’ll protect your family and save lives,” said Patel, during a recent visit to a vaccination centre in Harrow, north-west London, with a large ethnic minority population. PTI AK PMS PMS