Covid vaccine: MPs to take part in trials to encourage more ethnic minority participants

People from Bame backgrounds disproportionately affected by coronavirus, research shows

Kate Ng
Monday 30 November 2020 13:43
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Minister for Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, receiving her first vaccination as part of the Novavax phase 3 trial, which she is taking part in at Guy's and St. Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London
Minister for Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, receiving her first vaccination as part of the Novavax phase 3 trial, which she is taking part in at Guy's and St. Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London

Two MPs from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (Bame) backgrounds have volunteered to take part in coronavirus vaccine trials, following a call for more ethnic minority participants.

Shadow housing minister Naz Shah announced this week she was volunteering, and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch had her first jab in October.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said ethnic minority groups are “under-represented” in clinical trials in the UK, and thousands more are needed to take part. Research has shown that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are disproportionately affected by Covid-19.

Ms Shah told BBC Politics North, while wearing the vaccine trial wristband from Bradford Teaching Hospitals University: “I’ve taken part to give reassurances to people, to make informed choices about being part of a trial for vaccines.

She was also featured in a video filmed by the NHS Trust outside the University of Bradford, and said that volunteering in the clinical trial was her “way of contributing to the good work that the hospital trust and university, and people up and down the country are doing” to create a safe vaccine.

The MP for Bradford West said: “The reason it’s so important and I felt I needed to take part in this trial is because, whilst we have a large black and minority ethnic community, we know this virus impacts disproportionately on those from those communities.”

Treasury minister Ms Badenoch had her first jab on 13 October, after taking part in US biotechnology firm Novavax’s clinical trial.

The MP for Saffron Walde said she volunteered to help ensure “every community trusts a future vaccine to be safe” and make sure it works “across the entire population”.

“With less than half a per cent of people on the NHS Vaccine Registry from a black background, we have a lot more work to do,” she added.

A spokesperson for the National Institute for Health Research said: “We are still looking for more volunteers, particularly people from Bame backgrounds, so that the vaccines, and other studies on Covid can help protect the whole population, particularly those most at risk of serious disease.

“354,000 people have already volunteered through signing up to the NHS Covid-19 Vaccine Research Registry across the UK. It’s thanks to these volunteers that we’ll shortly have vaccines ready for the regulators to review for more widespread use.”

According to the spokesperson, 7.6 per cent of the registry’s volunteers are from a non-white background.

They added that interim results of the first three vaccine trials are “encouraging”, but emphasised the importance of research on the vaccine continuing to understand which vaccines are “better suited to specific groups of people”.

Scientists also need to study how long protection against coronavirus offered by vaccines last to understand how frequently people will need to receive another dose.

“Participation in research continue to be a vital part of the fight against Covid,” they added.

People from black backgrounds are statistically more likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19, according to data from Public Health England, and death rates are higher among ethnic minority groups.

The Office for National Statistics said people of black ethnicity were 1.9 times more likely to die from a coronavirus-related death than those of white ethnicity.

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