Put Covid vaccine clinics in the heart of communities with locally-led plans to drive BAME uptake
We must bring together local GPs, public heath directors and pharmacists, alongside faith and community leaders to help break down barriers to vaccine uptake.
We know that vaccine hesitancy is still a huge issue in some hard to reach communities, including those with higher proportions of black, asian and ethnic minority people, who are being hit hard by this virus. The government has, so far, failed to protect them.
A new study published last week, based on more than 20 million patient records in England, found that black people over the age of 80 were half as likely as their white peers to have been vaccinated against Covid by 13 January. The study found that, of the million of those over 80 but not living in a care home, 43 per cent of the white people had been given their first dose of the vaccine, while just 30 of the Bangladeshi and Pakistani people, and just 21 percent of the black people, had.
This is incredibly concerning when we know that those from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are more likely to die with Covid-19, than their white counterparts.
We must vaccinate Britain, and to do that we need a plan to ensure that no-one from black, asian and ethnic minority communities is left behind. Back in May last year Labour called for a Covid-19 health inequalities strategy to protect deprived and black, Asian and ethnic minority communities.
Now ministers need to go further and move heaven and earth to build trust in the vaccine programme through genuine community engagement and locally-led initiatives, working with local communities as part of its comprehensive engagement strategy to encourage take up of the vaccine and address the historic impact of structural racism.
Ministers should initiate a mass targeted advertising campaign to counter dangerous anti-vax content
Ministers should establish a forum in every area, bringing together local GPs, public heath directors and pharmacists, alongside faith and community leaders, to work on local plans to drive up vaccination rates in harder to reach communities. Each one should have a communication strategy that reaches every community and a thorough analysis with an accompanying action plan to address the impact that pre-existing structural inequalities are having on low uptake.
We already an amazing network of community pharmacists and GPs at the heart of their communities, with strong links to their patients, making it vital that their unique expertise is fully utilised used to break down barriers to vaccine uptake.
We’ve seen some amazing examples of religious spaces turned into vaccination centres. The government should encourage and set up more centres up in places of worship including mosques, temples and gurdwaras.
Lastly, ministers should initiate a mass targeted advertising campaign to counter dangerous anti-vax content that has continued to be shared on social media platforms like facebook and whatsapp.
Getting everyone working together on the programme is vital to its success. When the stakes are as high as they are, no community must be left behind in the campaign to vaccinate Britain. There isn’t a moment to lose.
Jonathan Ashworth is the Labour MP for Leicester South and shadow secretary of state for health and social care. Marsha de Cordova is the Labour MP for Battersea and shadow secretary of state for women and equalities.
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