United Kingdom

Almost half of people in some areas with high ethnic minority populations are refusing jab

Nearly half of all people in some areas with a large population of ethnic minorities are refusing the Covid vaccine when offered it due to fears about what it contains.

In Birmingham, 50 per cent of people living in areas with high populations of Asian and African-Caribbean people turned down the vaccine when offered it.

In Ealing, west London, between 10 and 15 per cent of black people are refusing the vaccine - compared to just 5 per cent of other groups.

Meanwhile in Stoke-on-Trent, medics say between 20 and 30 per cent of black and ethnic minority people didn't show up to get their vaccine. In other groups, this figure stood at between 2 and 3 per cent.

Fake information about what goes in it or concerns about potential side effects are the main deterrents, local clinical director Lenin Vellaturi claimed.

A health worker administers a Covid-19 vaccine inside a former nightclub that has been turned into a NHS vaccine centre in St Albans earlier this month

SAGE earlier blamed 'structural and institutional racism and discrimination' for vaccine scepticism among BAME communities - as a survey found 72 per cent of black people were unlikely to have the Covid jab.

A report from the Government's scientific advisory committee said historical issues of unethical healthcare research and systemic racism are key factors for lower levels of trust in Britain's mass vaccination programme.

This justification was echoed by equality campaigner Trevor Phillips - the former head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission - who said it was 'absurd' to claim hesitancy was down to a language barrier or misconceptions.

He told The Times: 'The NHS and government have to realise that what they are seeing is probably a sincere rejection of the vaccine on religious or cultural grounds and quite probably a deep suspicion of anything proposed by white authorities.

He added: 'The underlying suggestion that we are all just a bit backward or don't understand the arguments for the jab is just belittling people of colour.'

NHS England's regional medical director for London said 'concerns that go back generations' in certain communities due to historic vaccine experiments, as he insisted the vaccine is safe.'

In Birmingham, 50 per cent of people living in areas with high populations of Asian and African-Caribbean people turned down the vaccine when offered it (file photo)

Earlier this month, doctors expressed fears over 'fake news' causing South Asian people to reject the Covid vaccine over false claims that the jabs contain alcohol or meat and can alter patients' DNA. 

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.

The practising doctor 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.

An undated document released by Sage on Friday found 'marked difference existed by ethnicity, with black ethnic groups the most likely to be Covid-19 hesitant, followed by Pakistani/Bangladeshi groups'.

Joanmes de-Gallerie receiving a vaccine at the Nightingale facility at the Excel Centre, London

Dr Sood 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 prayers 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.

An earlier poll - conducted by the UK Household Longitudinal Study - which found that vaccine scepticism among black, Asian and ethnic minority groups in the UK is high.

Though the study, conducted in November with 12,000 respondents, found overall high levels of willingness to be vaccinated - at 82 per cent - 72 per cent of black people said they were unlikely or very unlikely to be vaccinated.

Around 100 mosques are using Friday prayers to raise coronavirus awareness and dispel myths around vaccinations. Pictured: The congregation at the Makka Mosque in Leeds

Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Eastern European groups also said they were unwilling to take the Covid jab, while women, younger people and those with lower levels of education were also more hesitant than others.

A SAGE report responding to the study: 'Trust is particularly important for black communities that have low trust in healthcare organisations and research findings due to historical issues of unethical healthcare research.

'Trust is also undermined by structural and institutional racism and discrimination. Minority ethnic groups have historically been underrepresented within health research, including vaccines trials, which can influence trust in a particular vaccine being perceived as appropriate and safe, and concerns that immunisation research is not ethnically heterogenous.' 

The findings have sparked concern among GPs who are now calling on No10 to begin a public health campaign that encourages black people in particular to receive a coronavirus vaccine. 

Prof Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: 'We are concerned that recent reports show that people within BAME communities are not only more likely to be adversely affected by the virus but also less likely to accept the Covid vaccine, when offered it. 

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