NHS England officials encouraged GPs at a primary care webinar on 20 January to use their relationships with patients and the wider community to share accurate information about the jab and strengthen uptake among all groups.
The suggestion comes after GPs raised the alarm earlier this week over low uptake rates among BAME communities, with one PCN revealing DNAs were 10 times higher in this group compared to others.
GPs were encouraged to act now to increase uptake among minority communities where they have concerns about potential low uptake rates, rather than wait for ethnicity data to materialise.
Primary care staff attending the webinar were informed about some of the harmful misconceptions being shared about the COVID vaccine, including false allegations that it can ‘alter people’s DNA’ or contains a microchip to track people.
Incorrect information that the vaccines contain porcine substances and alcohol have also discouraged patients from BAME communities from getting inoculated.
Slides presented to primary care staff encouraged teams to tailor information provided in the NHS Communication Pack to their communities to encourage uptake – and stressed that communication from trusted professionals ‘is powerful’.
Spreading information via social media, or posting photos of themselves having the jab, was another suggestion made by NHS England, as well as involving religious leaders and local councillors who can reach large numbers of people.
Public health messaging
Slides from the webinar obtained by GPonline said: ‘Communities with greater levels of vaccine hesitancy or other challenges around engagement and uptake will take longer to reach, so all local areas should ensure engagement is either underway or begins now.
‘Please do as much as you can to get vaccination to your highest risk populations, mindful of deprivation, ethnicity and all factors impacting COVID-19 risk. Increased flexibility offers an opportunity to tackle inequity and begin reaching health inclusion groups.’
Co-clinical director of Shelton and Hanley PCN in Stoke-on-Trent Dr Lenin Vellaturi told GPonline that his network had experienced ‘plenty of problems’ with uptake among BAME patients in his community, reporting 20-30% DNAs linked to concern about the vaccine.
In December RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall warned that public health messaging around the vaccine must be tailored to ensure good uptake among BAME patients. He said people in these communities needed to be reassured about the ‘efficacy and safety’ of the jab.