NHS unveils £4.2m fund to tackle vaccine inequality

CCGs with low uptake of COVID-19 vaccine in ethnic minority, marginalised or deprived communities will be supported to boost uptake through a £4.2m NHS fund.

£4.2m vaccine inequality fund (Photo: Viktoria Rodriguez/Getty Images)
£4.2m vaccine inequality fund (Photo: Viktoria Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Each of England's 42 strategic health partnership (STP) or integrated care system (ICS) areas will receive an initial £100,000 to support CCGs or primary care networks (PCNs) within their region to tackle vaccine inequality.

A letter  from NHS England to CCGs on 24 February said that according to 'initial data', black African communities have the highest hesitancy compared to other ethnic groups.

It warned that Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities had higher hesitancy than white British/Irish and Indian communities, while 'Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, people experiencing homelessness and asylum seeker, refugee and migrant populations may need additional routes to access the vaccine'.

Vaccine hesitancy

Income and socio-economic circumstances also correlate with reduced uptake, NHS England warned.

The £4.2m fund is the latest drive to improve equality in vaccine uptake after an update to the COVID-19 enhanced service this week suggested practices could be offered additional payments to boost uptake in hard-to-reach groups.

NHS England has published data on the ethnicity of people who have received one or two doses of vaccine to date, but has not provided a breakdown to show the proportion of the total population within different ethnic groups that have accepted jabs.

London has trailed behind other regions of England - particularly in uptake among over-80s - and experts have suggested vaccine hesitancy in the capital's diverse population may be a key factor.

COVID-19 vaccine

Analysis by GPonline of variation in vaccine coverage between CCGs shows that although in many areas nearly all people aged 70 or older had received a first dose of vaccine by 14 February, 17 of England's 135 CCGs had covered less than nine in 10 patients in this age group. In one London CCG this falls to less than two thirds.

NHS England has said that 'CCGs with low uptake in ethnic minority communities or low uptake in marginalised or deprived communities will be provided with data on vaccine uptake within their local PCNs and at a postcode level to support a focused and granular response to local challenges'. This data will be based on coverage achieved in priority cohorts 1-4 identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

NHS England's letter says funding should 'focus on intensifying existing or novel local engagement activity' to address vaccine hesitancy, particularly in black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) groups.

The funding can also be used to address problems with vaccine uptake related to convenience of access, and to do with 'complacency' - particularly in younger populations.

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