As the UK’s COVID-19 vaccine programme rolls out, guided by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s list of priority groups, it is of vital importance that those from marginalised and disadvantaged groups are afforded equitable access to the vaccine.
It is right that those at greatest risk are prioritised in receiving the vaccine. But in order to do this, barriers to access for disadvantaged and minority ethnic communities, such as the requirement to register with a GP, must be removed.
Recent research from the Royal Society for Public Health for example, showed that UK respondents from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are over 20% less likely to accept a COVID-19 vaccine than White respondents. The same research also found that whilst 84% of the highest earners would accept a COVID-19 vaccine, this number dropped to 70% amongst the lowest earners.
This research, when considered alongside last year’s PHE report showing that those from minority ethnic communities are at significantly higher risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, demonstrates the importance of dedicated efforts to support vaccine uptake amongst marginalised communities.
The Royal College of General Practitioners has also raised concerns about vaccine uptake amongst minority ethnic communities, suggesting that the elevated risk resulting from ethnicity, geographical socio-economic indicators and other related factors should be considered in prioritising vaccine delivery.
We must support the marginalised communities facing barriers in accessing the COVID-19 vaccine to save lives and prevent the health inequalities widened by the pandemic stretching even further.
FPH’s Sudan Special Interest Group for example, is working to engage with marginalised UK communities to promote knowledge about the vaccine through engagement sessions, discussions with community leaders and through mixed-media online communications.
FPH echoes calls for concerted action to ensure that marginalised and disadvantaged communities are provided with equal opportunity to access the COVID-19 vaccination. Equitable access to the vaccine must be at the very foundation of the UK’s roll-out, and we must work with our international partners to ensure global access to the vaccine. Only through this approach can we hope to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and protect our health into the future.