Understanding issues within minority ethnic communities will be “absolutely vital” to the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, a GP has said as a study into vaccine attitudes is launched.
The study, carried out by Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership, will look at the impact of Covid-19 and attitudes towards the vaccine among people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.
It comes after a poll by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) found that those from BAME backgrounds would be less likely to have the vaccine.
GP and chairman of the NHS Clinical Leaders Network Dr Raj Kumar said: “In my career as a clinician and as a GP I have never encountered the death rates from any single infection source as I have seen with Covid over the last nine months.
“We all know it affects the BAME community members far more adversely and there are a far more disproportionate number of deaths from this community.
“If there was any particular group of individuals who need to be focused on in terms of getting 100% take-up of the vaccine, it should be BAME groups.
“It is absolutely vital to ensure that the outcomes from this learning and study are applied effectively and we need to have a targeted approach.”
Dr Kumar said those from BAME backgrounds were historically less likely to access health services.
He told the PA news agency: “We need to understand exactly why. I know, as a GP there may be religious reasons because vaccines may contain animal products.
“But religious leaders have come out supporting developments and in terms of these particular vaccines, no animal products are used at all.
“We have seen already, in some parts of the country, leaders from mosques and temples saying ‘this vaccine is really important for you to take, nothing in our religion says you shouldn’t have it’.
“If we have leaders in every one of these local areas conveying the same message I think we will be able to deal with the percentage of people saying they are still unsure.”
He said healthcare professionals also had a “major role” to play in addressing issues.
The research aims to gain a deeper understanding into the experiences of ethnic groups during the pandemic, as well as attitudes towards vaccinations, to ensure communication and services can be tailored towards them.
Edna Boampong, deputy director of communications and engagement at the Cheshire and Merseyside Heath and Care Partnership, said: “When Covid first came about it shone a light on the inequalities that exist across Cheshire and Merseyside.
“We recognised that inequality gap was starting to get bigger for people from BAME communities and they seemed to be impacted disproportionately.”
Dr Linda Charles-Ozuzu, regional director of commissioning for NHS England and NHS Improvement, added: “We are aware that the risk of dying from Covid-19 is higher in black, Asian and minority ethnic groups compared to white ethnic groups.
“We are asking for everyone in these communities to take part in our survey to help the NHS understand attitudes and feelings around the virus and the vaccination programme.”
The survey is available online at http://www.cheshireandmerseysidepartnership.co.uk/survey-landing-page.
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