The Government has ‘not done enough’ to gain the trust of local communities to improve Covid-19 vaccination rates, the British Medical Association (BMA) has said in response to the latest figures on vaccine uptake.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows lower uptake among over-50s in all ethnic minority groups compared with the white British population, and among other less-advantaged socio-economic groups, such as people living in deprived areas.
A BMA spokesperson described the figures as ‘deeply concerning’.
‘We know that some groups have higher rates of vaccine hesitancy and this is linked to a lack of confidence in Government and historically poor experiences of and access to health services,’ they added.
‘The Government has had clear evidence on this since the start of the vaccination efforts and yet still hasn’t done enough to gain the trust of and engage with local communities, as well as support community efforts.’
The ONS data, which looked at first dose rates among people 50-years and over in England between 8 December 2020 and 12 April 2021, revealed that the lowest vaccination rates were among people identifying as Black Caribbean (67%) and Black African (71%).
It also showed a relationship between proficiency in English language – with 75% uptake among those who do not speak it at all compared to 93% whose main language is English.
The data also showed that vaccination rates differed by religious identity with the lowest rates among those who identified as Muslim (79%) and Buddhist (83%).
This follows sustained effort from the NHS to highlight that receiving a Covid-19 vaccine does not break the fast observed during daylight hours over Ramadan.
Disabled people, who reported being ‘limited a lot’ in their day-to-day activities, also had lower rates of vaccination (89%) compared with those who were non-disabled (92%).
The BMA said that the Government must act to ensure information on Covid vaccines is distributed in multiple languages, with more ‘innovative efforts’ to engage with hard-to-reach communities, such as mobile vaccination units.
‘Previous work done in developing reassuring, myth-busting messages will be a waste of efforts if they aren’t delivered in a way that all patients can access,’ the spokesperson said.
They also called on the Government to act on any vaccination data trends ‘as a matter of urgency’, ensuring access to vaccines to all groups regardless of immigration status.
Meanwhile, last month, NHS England reported that uptake of Covid-19 vaccines among ethnic minority groups had tripled from 1.89 million to 5.78 million between 7 February and 7 April.
NHS England’s medical director for primary care, Dr Nikki Kanani, said at the time that the progress was a ‘direct result of a combination of NHS teams who know and understand their communities’ and the community and faith leaders who had worked closely with them.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) was contacted for comment.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Vaccines are our way out of this pandemic – they’re safe, effective and already saving thousands of lives.
‘The vaccine programme is powered by trust, which is why we have worked from the outset with faith and community groups in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities to overcome hesitancy.
‘Vaccine confidence is at record levels in the UK and we are building on this every day with a range of initiatives to remove barriers to getting a jab, from Community Champions schemes, to multicultural media campaigns that provide advice and information about vaccines.’