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UK faith leaders launch campaign to combat low vaccine take-up in BAME community

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By Mark Armstrong with AP
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Take-up of Covid-19 vaccine is lower in UK black and ethnic minority groups
Take-up of Covid-19 vaccine is lower in UK black and ethnic minority groups   -   Copyright  AP Photo
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The UK's covid vaccination campaign is powering ahead but a lower take-up among the black and minority ethnic community has prompted faith leaders to launch a campaign to dispel fear and mistrust.

Last month the government's scientific advisory group reported that vaccine hesitancy is highest amongst black Britons, with 72% stating they were unlikely or very unlikely to get the jab.

One medical centre in Stoke-on-Trent said the proportion of people not attending vaccine clinics when invited was ten times higher among BAME people than the average.

“We’ve had around 20-30% DNAs [did not attend] among the BAME community, compared to 2-3% in other groups,” Dr Lenin Vellaturi told GPonline.

''There is much more vaccine hesitancy amongst some of our Black, Asian and other ethnic minority communities," explained UK Member of Parliament Shabana Mahmood. "They're picking up many more people who are saying no, they don't want the vaccine."

It's thought religious leaders can be effective in influencing the BAME community through their congregations.

That view chimes with the thoughts of one doctor with experience of vaccine hesitancy.

"But what really got me the most is when I heard one of the nurses I spoke to said, come on [...] we need to go and get this vaccine. And she is like, no, my pastor said no," said Dr Michael Dawes from the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

"And I'm like ... and that shocked me, it got me angry, and I said to her 'give me your pastor's number and let me speak to your pastor."

The Give Hope campaign has the backing of Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Church of England’s first female black bishop. It's also supported by leaders from Anglican, Methodist, Salvation Army, Baptist, Pentecostal, Evangelical and black majority churches.

Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, said last week the government would examine the issue of “refusal rates”, especially within BAME communities.