Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on 20 April, NHS England primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani revealed that between 7 February 2021 and 7 April 2021, vaccine coverage in minority ethnic groups rose 235%, from 1.8m to 5.7m.
This outpaced the 154% rise in vaccine uptake across all ethnicities over the same period. Among people from a Bangladeshi background – among whom high vaccine hesitancy has been reported – a five-fold increase in uptake was seen over the two-month period.
Dr Kanani said GPs’ understanding of their local communities had been a key driver behind this improvement – helping to dispel misinformation and build confidence.
NHS England wrote to practices in February highlighting higher vaccine hesitancy rates among people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.
Since then GPs have been encouraged to work on boosting uptake in minority ethnic communities, repeating vaccine offers to people who had previously refused. One North London GP personally telephoned people who had not been vaccinated but were elegible.
NHS England established an action plan in February and provided CCGs with low uptake an additional £4.2m in funding to improve equality in vaccine coverage.
Dr Kanani said general practice teams had made ‘significant progress’ to boost vaccine uptake rates among minority ethnic communities. She said: ‘Since we set out our plan in February, uptake from all ethnic minority backgrounds has tripled, outpacing the national average across all ethnicities.
Minority ethnic patients
‘Take up among people from a Pakistani background is more than four times higher than it was in February and [there has been a] five-fold increase in people taking up the vaccine from a Bangladeshi background.
‘The progress is a direct result of a combination of NHS teams who know and understand their communities, community and faith leaders who’ve worked really closely with us, practical considerations about Ramadan and other local nuances and really strong high profile backing from high profile people. So I want to thank everyone involved in this effort: you’ve saved lives.’
NHS England statistics show that uptake among Bangladeshi groups increased from 29,382 to 152,408 between February and April. Uptake among Pakistani groups increased four-fold, from 88,956 to 367,780.
More than 10m people UK-wide have received both doses of COVID-19 vaccine – just 18 weeks after GP-led sites became involved in the vaccination programme.
The government announced earlier this week that it was ‘ramping up’ plans for an autumn booster campaign that could see practices deliver millions more COVID-19 jabs to protect against new variants.