The government’s third report on COVID-19 health inequalities shows that vaccine confidence has 'steadily increased’ across the population as a whole since December.
Data from the Office for National Statistics cited in the report show that 93% of adults reported 'positive sentiment' towards the vaccine, while 7% of adults reported vaccine hesitancy.
Vaccine hesistancy remains highest in black or black British adults (30%) despite vaccine confidence increasing in this group from 49% (10 December 2020 to 10 January 2021) to 70% (31 March to 25 April 2021).
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People of black African ethnicity had the lowest vaccine uptake, at 65.9% of 70- to 79-year-olds and 65.6% of over-80s, compared with 96.8% and 97.4% respectively among people of white British ethnicity.
The report recommends that NHS England should include priority group cohorts and sex in its reporting of uptake figures - and insists GPs need ‘clear guidance and protocols’ about recording ethnicity data.
Concern about side effects, long-term effects on health and ‘wanting to wait to see how the vaccine works’ were the most common reasons given for vaccine hesitancy between 13 January and 7 February 2021.
Efforts of GP teams to increase uptake among ethnic minority communities were praised in the paper, including a vaccination bus that visited locations across Crawley to drive uptake in the Hindu community.
Newham GP Dr Farzana Hussain, who has been credited for her efforts to boost vaccination numbers by individually ringing patients who have rejected the jab on her patient list, has backed the government drive to boost uptake.
She said: ‘It is really important that everyone takes the vaccine - unless all of us are protected, none of us are protected.
The vaccines are very safe - they have been trialled on hundreds of thousands of volunteers by world-leading scientists, and now millions of doses have been given, just in the UK alone. I urge everyone to take the jab when they are offered it.’
Minister for equalities Kemi Badenoch celebrated the ‘positive progress’ that had been made with vaccine uptake, but admitted there was more to be done.
She said: ‘We are not complacent and we will continue to tackle dangerous disinformation and work with trusted partners to promote confidence in the vaccine so everyone takes up their jab when they are offered it.
‘Vaccines are the key to unlocking a return to normal life, and this government will continue to do everything it can to ensure everyone is confident to take them.'
Nearly 38m first doses have been administered to patients in the UK, while this is close to 23m for second doses. Close to three quarters of the UK adult population has now received a first dose of vaccine - and 43% has been fully vaccinated with two doses.