UK Black and South Asian groups lag in COVID-19 vaccinations

FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker fills a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at the Newcastle Racecourse vaccination centre, in Newcastle upon Tyne, Britain January 29, 2021. REUTERS/Lee Smith

LONDON (Reuters) – Only 55% of Black people in England in their 70s had been vaccinated against COVID-19 by last week compared to 86% of white people of that age, a study showed, as celebrities and officials encourage minority groups to accept the shot.

Britain has outpaced most other countries by giving at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to more than a quarter of its population. However, people from Black and South Asian backgrounds, who have suffered a disproportionate number of deaths, have been more reluctant to be vaccinated.

Among those from South Asian backgrounds, 73% of people aged 70-79 had been vaccinated by Feb. 11, according to a study by OpenSafely, run by the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Recent polls have indicated that Black, Asian and other minority groups in Britain worry more than whites about the vaccine’s reliability, while government advisers believe socioeconomic factors raise these groups’ risk of dying from COVID-19.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of the National Health Service in England, on Monday said this hesitancy was a “real concern” and that a huge effort was being made to overcome it.

Television comedy writer Adil Ray coordinated the creation of a video of celebrities with minority backgrounds encouraging people to take the vaccine, which was due to air on television on Thursday.

He said that public debate in Britain about the impact of coronavirus restrictions on Christmas celebrations, pubs and “scotch eggs”, which are wrapped in sausage meat, had no bearing on the cultural life of many Asian people who may not celebrate Christmas, drink alcohol or eat pork.

“All those things matter, and those are things that we have to do better at,” he told the BBC.

The government is banking on its huge vaccination programme as the escape route from a series of national lockdowns and their crippling economic impact. By Wednesday, almost 16 million people had received a first dose.

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