Publicity campaign needed to boost BAME COVID-19 vaccine uptake, RCGP warns

A national publicity campaign backed by faith leaders and public figures from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities is needed to increase uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine in groups hit hard by the virus, the RCGP has warned.

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall (Photo: Pete Hill)

Analysis of NHS England COVID-19 vaccination figures by the college shows that people of black ethnicity are half as likely as people of white ethnicity to get vaccinated. People of Asian ethnicity are under two thirds as likely as their white counterparts to accept vaccination.

Vaccination figures show that 91% of all recipients of COVID-19 jabs have been white, despite BAME people making up 13.6% of the population. Just 7.8% of all vaccines have been administered to these communities.

GPs in North Staffordshire told GPonline last month that rates of people from BAME communities who did not attend appointments at vaccine clinics were 10 times higher than the average.

Vaccine hesitancy

The college has warned that vaccine hesitancy among BAME communities, who have been disproportionately affected by the virus, could create ‘swathes across the country’ where COVID-19 will continue to remain a threat unnecessarily.

Vaccination data for England show that 14.4% of people of white ethnicity in England have been vaccinated so far - 7m in total - compared with 4.7% of people from mixed ethnic groups, 6.8% of people of black ethnicity and 9.2% of people of Asian ethnicity.

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall argued that a high-profile campaign was needed to deliver targeted ‘myth-busting’ messages to increase public confidence in the vaccines and ensure vulnerable communities are better protected.

He said: ‘As GPs, we can provide the scientific evidence and reassurances that these vaccines have been rigorously tested and that they work. However, faith leaders and popular public figures from BAME backgrounds know their communities and have shared experiences. They often have huge influence and are the very heart of the communities to which they belong, and this could be invaluable in helping to deliver reassuring messages.

BAME uptake

‘The COVID vaccines are set to get us out of this pandemic, but increasing the uptake of the vaccine amongst BAME patients will require more than the efforts of GPs and their teams. If prominent figures from BAME communities work with the NHS to help bust the myths around the COVID vaccine and help deliver clear and relevant messages about its safety, it may very well save lives,’ he added.

Numerous reports show that vaccination hesitancy within BAME communities may be down to several factors, including historic trust issues stemming from personal and collective experiences.

Polling by the Royal Society for Public Health in December found that 76% of the UK population as a whole was willing to have a COVID-19 vaccine if advised to do so by their GP or other health professional - but that among people from BAME backgrounds this fell to just 57%. Almost 50% of England's BAME population is in London.

Last month GPs were urged to use their ‘huge influence’ to bust misinformation around the COVID-19 vaccination and boost uptake among BAME communities.

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