Racial discrimination ‘may be driving vaccine hesitancy’, new study suggests

Exclusive: Reluctance to take up Covid jab higher among minority groups which have suffered discrimination during pandemic

Nadine White@nadine_writes
Monday 12 April 2021 18:38
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<p>Discrimination in local services may be causing vaccine hesitancy, new research suggests</p>

Discrimination in local services may be causing vaccine hesitancy, new research suggests

Racial discrimination in local public services is twice as high among ethnic minority groups and may be driving vaccine hesitancy, a report has warned.

Research by Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) revealed stark disparities in the impact of Covid-19 which the independent charity said could help to explain low take-up of the vaccines among minorities.

People from ethnic minority backgrounds are much more likely to report experiencing discrimination than the white population with 52 per cent of Asian and 50 per cent Black respondents saying they have faced discrimination when accessing local services, compared to 19 per cent of the white population.

Minority groups, including almost 46 per cent of Asian respondents, 41 per cent of mixed ethnicity and over a third of Black respondents (39 per cent), have struggled or been unable to access government support during the pandemic despite being eligible for it, according to the Crisis, Communities, Change report.

The survey of 2,600 people in Britain, carried out in March by Savanta ComRes for the RSA, and included a weighted sample of 1,000 people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The report pointed to structural bias across state institutions and suggested higher levels of discrimination and mistrust among ethnic minority communities could be a factor in rates of vaccine hesitancy. Among those who said were vaccine hesitant, 59 per cent said they have suffered discrimination when accessing local services in the past, versus 33 per cent who had not.

Additional interviews carried out as part the research also suggested a link between this discrimination and lower vaccine uptake among these groups, the RSA said.

The report comes after the government-backed Commission for Race and Ethnic Disparities concluded that systemic racism did not exist in the UK in a report published earlier this month.

Anthony Painter, chief research and impact officer at the RSA, said: “The evidence from our research casts serious doubt on the idea that institutional racism is not an issue in the UK. People from ethnic minorities are much more likely to have experienced discrimination in public services, and we saw some evidence that this is linked to ‘vaccine hesitancy’.

“Too often, we talk about why ethnic minorities are less likely to trust those delivering public services, which puts the onus on those communities, rather than serious service failings.

“In the future, public services also need to look beyond ‘engagement’ or ‘outreach’ with ethnic minority groups, and instead look at the systemic and institutional reasons they are not trusted.”

1 in 4 Black respondents say the police makes their lives ‘difficult’, the survey revealed.

The police, justice system and the UK government are viewed as unsupportive by Black and mixed populations, the research found

Some 25 per cent of Black respondents and 20 per cent of respondents from mixed ethnic backgrounds said police “actively make my life more difficult”, compared to just 9 per cent of white respondents.

When considering how well the police and justice system operates, 42 per cent white respondents said that the police “do their job”, while Black and mixed respondents were the most likely to say that they need improvement or are not fit for purpose.

Samira Ben Omar, co-founder of health disparity initiative Community Voices, said: “The conversations that need to happen are about the longer-term and about what changes need to happen in our system to repair that disconnect.

“The disconnect is not because of the way are communities have behaved, it’s the disconnect with how systems, our system, all public sector services have behaved.”     

The pandemic’s impact on minority groups has been further compounded by issues with living space and caring responsibilities, according to the report.

Asian, mixed race and Black respondents were twice as likely than white respondents to say they have struggled during the pandemic due to a lack of space at home.

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