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Concern over coronavirus vaccine take-up among BAME communities

A Brent Council worker hangs a direction sign to the NHS Covid Vaccine Centre at the Olympic Office Centre, Wembley, north London, as 10 further mass vaccination centres opened in England with more than a million over-80s invited to receive their coronavirus jab. Picture by Yui Mok, PA Wire

The British vaccines minister has said he is concerned the take-up of the jab may be lower in BAME communities.

Nadhim Zahawi said he is working with local mayors and councils to get the message across to "hard-to-reach groups".

It comes after a document released by Sage last week found "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%.

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 today'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.

"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."

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".

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."

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