A new poll by the Royal Society for Public Health has revealed that three in four (76%) of the UK public would take a COVID-19 vaccine if advised to do so by their GP or health professional, with just 8% stating they would be very unlikely to do so.
However, of particular concern were findings that 57% of respondents from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds (199 respondents) were likely to accept a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 79% of White respondents. Confidence was lowest among respondents of Asian ethnicity, of whom 55% were likely to say yes.
Encouragingly, BAME respondents who were not willing to be vaccinated were especially receptive to offers of further health information from their GP. Over one third (35%) said they would likely change their minds and get the jab if given more information by their GP about how effective it is – almost twice as many as the 18% of White people who were initially unwilling.
Nevertheless, the RSPH said that the poll results reinforce the need for dedicated efforts to support vaccine uptake among BAME communities, who have already suffered far higher COVID death rates throughout the pandemic. The findings build on a study earlier this year which found that parents in minority ethnic groups were almost three times more likely to reject a COVID-19 vaccine for themselves and their children than White parents.
The polling also revealed significantly more hesitancy among lower income groups, with just 70% of lowest earners likely to say yes to the jab compared to 84% of highest earners. Again, this should be of special concern to the Government given the death rates from COVID in the poorest areas have been more than double those in better off areas. The findings come on the back of a new report by Sir Michael Marmot, published on 15 December, arguing that social and economic inequalities have been made worse by the pandemic.
Christina Marriott, chief executive of RSPH, said: “It is highly concerning that both those living in poorer areas and those from minority ethnic communities are less likely to want the vaccine. However it is not surprising. We have known for years that different communities have different levels of satisfaction in the NHS and more recently we have seen anti-vaccination messages have been specifically targeted at different groups, including different ethnic or religious communities.
“But these are exactly the groups which have suffered most through COVID. They continue to be most at risk of getting ill and most at risk of dying. So the Government, the NHS and local public health must rapidly and proactively work with these communities. And their most effective ways of working will be with the local community groups."
Jabeer Butt, chief executive of the Race Equality Foundation, said: “These findings are not surprising in light of past experience of the reach of vaccines to BAME communities, but they appear to be particularly worrying as it suggests the COVID vaccine may not reach communities that have been disproportionately impacted. It is imperative that the NHS uses trusted channels like BAME-led voluntary organisations to reach and address concerns of BAME communities and ensure that the disproportionate impact of COVID is not exacerbated.”