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‘Alarming’ racial inequality in booster vaccinations, charity says

Blood Cancer UK says while some of difference in third dose uptake may be because of varying levels of vaccine hesitancy, this does not explain why gap for third doses is much larger than gap for first two doses

Nadine White
Monday 31 January 2022 00:34 GMT
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Blood Cancer UK said 84 per cent of immunocompromised people from a white British background had three vaccine doses by mid-December, compared to just 43 per cent of immunocompromised people from a Pakistani background
Blood Cancer UK said 84 per cent of immunocompromised people from a white British background had three vaccine doses by mid-December, compared to just 43 per cent of immunocompromised people from a Pakistani background (PA)

There is an “alarming” racial inequality in England for people who are severely immunocompromised and require a third Covid-19 vaccine, a charity said.

Blood Cancer UK said 84 per cent of immunocompromised people from a white British background had three vaccine doses by mid-December, compared to just 43 per cent of immunocompromised people from a Pakistani background.

It added that the figures were 46 per cent for people from an African background, 47 per cent for people from a Caribbean background and 49 per cent for people from a Bangladeshi background.

The charity analysed the NHS England data following a freedom of information request using statistics up until 14 December 2021.

Blood Cancer UK said while some of the difference in third dose uptake may be because of varying levels of vaccine hesitancy, this does not explain why the gap for third doses is much larger than the gap for the first two doses.

An example the charity gave is a 14 per cent difference in the take-up of the first two doses between white British immunocompromised people (95 per cent) and those from a Pakistani background (81 per cent), but the gap between the two groups’ uptake of the third doses was 41 percentage points.

“Similarly, for the first two doses there was a gap of 11 percentage points between white British people and people from a Bangladeshi background, but for the third dose uptake this increased to a 35 percentage point gap,” it added.

The charity said it believes the main reason for this is the “chaotic and poorly communicated rollout of third doses” for the immunocompromised from the government which left many people struggling to access them despite being eligible for them.

Updated figures from NHS England until 26 January show that 73 per cent of people from an African background, 78 per cent of people from a Caribbean background and 73 per cent of people from a Bangladeshi background have had their third dose of the vaccine.

Third doses for those who are severely immunosuppressed can also change regularly as a result of the treatments they receive for their illnesses.

Gemma Peters, chief executive of Blood Cancer UK, said: “We know that people from ethnic minorities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and it is alarming that there is a clear racial disparity in the rollout of third doses for the immunocompromised.

“It means many thousands of people from ethnic minorities who are among those most vulnerable to Covid do not have the protection they would have if their community had been given third doses at the same rate as white British people.

“As a result of this, we fear that immunocompromised people from ethnic minorities who have died of Covid who would have lived if they had been white British.”

Blood Cancer UK said 84 per cent of immunocompromised people from a white British background had three vaccine doses by mid-December, compared to just 43 per cent of immunocompromised people from a Pakistani background. (PA)

Orin Lewis, co-founder and chief executive of blood cancer charity ACLT, said: “The disparity this data reveals is deeply shocking and numbing in its quietness, as is the fact that this must have been obvious for some time now yet it is only coming to light after a Freedom of Information request.

“We know that there has been racial disparities in the impact of Covid since the start of the pandemic, and so it is tragic that the NHS has not done more either to stop it happening in the first place, or to sound the alarm once it was clear there was a problem. “

In November, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced a review into possible racial and gender bias in medical devices after fresh research indicated that inaccurate readings from devices that measure blood oxygen levels could be making it difficult to assess the severity of Covid-19 in people from different ethnic groups.

The review, which will see UK authorities working alongside the United States, will look at introducing a new international standard to make sure medical devices have been tested on people of different races before widespread use.

A spokesperson from NHS England said: “Uptake among ethnic minority backgrounds has increased significantly since this data was provided, with more than nine in 10 of the most vulnerable eligible individuals having now had their third jab.

“The NHS continues to work with hospital clinicians, GPs and patient charities to identify those who are eligible for a third dose, and now also a booster, to ensure that vaccines are easily accessible and protect those who are severely immunosuppressed.”

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