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Government failing BAME communities and young women on vaccine take-up

27 March 2021

A letter from the Women and Equalities Committee has criticised the Government for failing BAME communities and young women on vaccine take-up. Committee Chair Caroline Nokes warned that leaving these issues unaddressed could be 'devastating for both vaccine hesitant groups and wider society.'

Letter to Vaccine Deployment Minister

The letter to Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi argues that the problems facing rollout in BAME communities were 'predictable' and risked 'compounding pre-existing health inequalities'.

The Government's apparent 'wait and see approach' to the potential impact of fertility concerns on vaccine uptake amongst young women was unacceptable, according to the Committee.

The issue of vaccine hesitancy is especially important as the Government looks to open up from lockdown and avoid a 'third wave'.

On 4 March, the Committee questioned community leaders and medical experts on the reasons behind these differences.

The following week, on 9 March, the Committee questioned Ministers on the Government's approach to the vaccination of the BAME communities and women.

Key points

In the letter, the Chair, Caroline Nokes, states:

  • "The [vaccination] disparities appear to be most prominent across minority ethnic and religious groups, adults in deprived areas, and young women."
  • "This is particularly concerning given the evidence we heard on the predictability of low uptake rates in certain groups, which may compound pre-existing health inequalities."
  • "We are also concerned that there is a lack of data collection around the numbers of those refusing the offer of a vaccine and the reasons for such refusal, particularly given your acceptance that this data skews 'heavily towards' certain BAME communities."
  • "Witnesses highlighted the need to recognise that the BAME community is not a homogenous one."
  • "Minister Badenoch acknowledged that vaccine concerns around fertility were 'false but proving to be sadly quite potent'. Despite this, we did not receive sufficient reassurance that the Government is developing a strategy to counter these concerns, and it was suggested that the Government is not overly concerned about the take up of vaccines by young women. This is not acceptable, we cannot adopt a 'wait and see' approach."
  • "The Government is at risk of repeating the same mistakes with other groups displaying early signs of vaccine hesitancy."

The Committee calls on the Government to:

  • Publish data on the vaccine rollout at local authority level.
  • Gather and publish vaccination data by sex, age, faith and ethnicity.
  • Urgently gather and assess vaccine refusal data.
  • Recognise the need to create mainstream content individualised to different BAME communities.
  • Develop targeted interventions to ensure young women take up the offer of a vaccine when it is their turn.

Chair's comments

Committee Chair, Caroline Nokes, said:

"The reasons for disparities in vaccine uptake are complex. Some of the groups with lower uptake rates are also among those who are at greater risk from covid, which is especially worrying.

"The Government must improve its understanding of why this is happening - and then take action to support more equal uptake.

"This problem must be solved urgently, or there is a real risk that existing health inequalities will be further exacerbated.

"Failing to address these issues could be devastating for both vaccine hesitant groups and wider society.

"Ensuring that as many people as possible are vaccinated is essential to ensuring the virus is contained as we begin opening up from lockdown. Any compromise will certainly increase the chances of a further lockdown."

Further information

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