People from ethnic minority backgrounds or with lower incomes are less likely to take the coronavirus vaccine being rolled out in Britain, a survey by the Royal Society for Public Health suggests.
The research has raised concerns about whether the jab would reach those communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic.
The survey showed that while three-quarters of those polled would take a COVID-19 vaccine if advised to do so by a doctor, that figure fell to 57% among black people and those from ethnic minority backgrounds.
It also suggested “significantly more hesitancy among lower income groups” with 70% of lowest earners likely to agree to the jab, compared to 84% of highest earners.
Public health experts and doctors say the results, while concerning, are not surprising.
“We have known for years that different communities have different levels of satisfaction in the National Health Service,” said Christina Marriott, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health.
“More recently we have seen anti-vaccination messages have been specifically targeted at different groups, including different ethnic or religious communities.”
The findings align with consistently lower uptake rates of other vaccines such as measles and flu jabs, among ethnic minority communities and in poorer areas, the organisation said.
The problem has been exacerbated by misinformation and anti-vaccination campaigns on social media.
Dr Kiran Rahim, a paediatrician based in a poorer area of London with a high rate of vaccine refusal, said health officials need to do much more to engage and reach out to marginalised and minority communities.
She said that in the case of the children’s nasal flu vaccine - which many Muslims refuse because it contains porcine gelatine - uptake significantly improved once authorities made an alternative option available.
“Many of us have lobbied for many years for a vegetarian version to be available, we were constantly met with resistance,” she said. “When it comes down to public health, with a mass vaccination campaign going, you do have to engage with all parties.”
Britain became the first country in the world to roll out the Pfizer and BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, which has an efficacy rate of around 95%. It is first targeting people over the age of 80, and nursing home workers, with around 138,000 people now having received the first of the two required jabs.
Studies in the UK and elsewhere have shown that black people and those from ethnic minorities are more at risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19, as a result of genetic conditions such as diabetes as well as socio-economic circumstances such as living conditions and occupation.
A report by Public Health England also said that structural racism and poor experiences of public healthcare made it less likely for some groups to seek care when needed.