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Minister fears vaccine take-up may be lower among BAME communities

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi fears take-up of Covid jab may be lower among black and ethnic minorities

  • Nadhim Zahawi is was working with councils to speak to ‘hard to reach groups’
  • Black communities and Pakistani/Bangladeshis are most likely to avoid a vaccine
  • There are concerns false information being spread plays on religious concerns

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi fears black and ethnic minorities may see a lower take-up of the Covid-19 vaccination.

There are concerns language and cultural barriers are feeding the spread of false information as the Government scientific advice panel revealed large differences in different communities taking the vaccine.

A document released by SAGE last week found a ‘marked difference existed by ethnicity, with black ethnic groups the most likely to be Covid-19 hesitant, followed by Pakistani/Bangladeshi groups’.

The report said adults in minority ethnic groups were less likely to receive vaccines than those in white groups, by between 10-20%. 

Mr Zahawi said: ‘My big worry is if 85% of the adult population get vaccinated, if the 15% skews heavily to the BAME community, the virus will very quickly infect that community.’ 

There are concerns that BAME communities have low confidence in the Covid-19 vaccine, due, in part, to a lack of endorsement from trusted providers and community leaders. In Bradford community initiatives have tried to encourage uptake among ethnic communities, with Muslim imam Mufti Zubair Butt receiving the jab at Whetley Medical Centre

The minister, who himself was born in Baghdad, Iraq, said he was working with local mayors and councils to get the message across to ‘hard-to-reach groups,’ that the vaccine is safe.  

Among the barriers to the vaccine uptake is the perception of risk, low confidence in the vaccine, and lack of endorsement from trusted providers and community leaders, the undated document said.

Mr Zahawi told Monday’s BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I am worried about BAME communities, which is why I’m spending a lot of time with the mayors, with Sadiq (Khan), and of course other parts of local government to make sure we reach those hard-to-reach groups. 

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi fears Covid-19 will ‘quickly infect,’ communities who avoid getting the jab, as false information plays on some cultures’ religious concerns 

Concerns have been raised that misinformation spread within some BAME communities plays on religious concerns – that the vaccine might contain gelatine, or other animal products and is not halal, or that it can result in modification of DNA.

Dr Habib Naqvi, director of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, has said language and cultural barriers play a part in the false information being distributed.

He said: ‘We need to be clear to our communities that there is no meat or meat products in the vaccine. There is no pork, there is no alcohol and it has been endorsed by religious leaders and religious councils.

‘Organisations and officials are working with social Asian role models, community leaders, influencers, religious leaders, to help to debunk some of the myths that are out there.’

Dr Naqvi said is essential for the NHS to tailor its services to meet ‘the diverse needs of our communities’.

Religious leaders and councils have endorsed the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, amid concerns that  language and cultural barriers play a part in false information being distributed

Salman Waqar, from the British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA), who works as a GP in Berkshire and academic researcher at Oxford University, is helping set up one of the local vaccination hubs.

‘Some of my colleagues have said that they struggled to book in minority community patients, particularly the elderly,’ he said.

‘If you look at data from influenza, that’s also showed a lower uptake amongst minority communities, so it’s not surprising in that sense.

‘There is a lot of misinformation, a lot of fog. And people really need help seeing through that fog.

‘When you do actually sit them down and explain to them, ‘these are the myths’, a lot people turn around and they do change their minds.’

IT comes as a campaign in Bradford aimed at a debunking myths and fake news surrounding the vaccine was declared a success. 

Well Bradford, a community health programme hosted by Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, teamed up with local GP Dr Sohail Abbas to help get the message across. 

Among priority groups for the vaccine are gravediggers employed in the Muslim section of Scholemoor cemetery, Bradford. 

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