Vaccines are needed desperately in densely populated urban areas, which house large numbers of Black and Minority Ethnic people.
While the narrative is building about BME communities’ reluctance to take the Covid-19 vaccine, the larger issue is that the government has not prioritised Black and minority ethnic communities, who are living under circumstances with higher infection risks and whose elderly are dying at dire rates.
The pandemic has had and continues to have a disproportionate impact on Black and Minority Ethnic communities. Higher infection and death rates have been neglected and public information campaigns to address higher risk areas have been poor.
From the outset we have called on ethnicity to be made a risk factor, something this government still refuses to implement. In order to address this crisis we have two main asks of the government:
- prioritise the effective roll-out of vaccines to BME communities and communities in dense urban areas where the need is greatest,
- work with BME community leaders to address the misinformation and boost confidence in the vaccine.
During a crisis, our response should be localised and targeted. Unfortunately, this has not been the case, with many BME people falling through the cracks of our social security net and being left more vulnerable as a result of their over-representation in higher risk, outside of the home roles.
The vaccine finally provides a way out of this dire situation and a way of protecting those who need it most. There must be immediate action to localise resources to the most in need areas. These are densely populated urbanised areas with large numbers of BME citizens.
Many BME groups do not trust the vaccine because of historical institutional racism, with hostile environmental policies over the last 15 years having had a detrimental impact on their relationship with state institutions.
To address this mistrust we urgently need the Department of Health to provide information to BME communities specific to each of the three vaccines that are licensed in the UK, to reassure patients concerns.
The government and healthcare system must immediately invest in culturally sensitive interventions to debunk the myths and misinformation relating to the vaccine. This lack of trust and confidence in the vaccination programme amongst our diverse communities must be immediately reversed to avoid a further widening of ethnic health inequalities.
We trust that this will be treated as a matter of urgency by this government and they will seek to roll out more local and targeted vaccine support to our communities.
The following made contributions to the supporting video:
Halima Begum – The Runnymede Trust
Yvonne Coghill – NHS England
Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin
Chief Rabbi Mirvis – Office of the Chief Rabbi
Imam Mohammed Mahmoud – East London Mosque
Maurice McLeod – Race on the Agenda
Patrick Vernon – Campaigner and Social Commentator