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Increasing vaccine uptake among ethnic minorities

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Dr Samantha Vanderslott

University Research Lecturer, Oxford Vaccine Group

Dr Seilesh Kadambari

University Research Lecturer, Oxford Vaccine Group

We have been struck by how COVID-19 has affected the health and wellbeing of ethnic minority groups disproportionately. We need to address the reasons for low vaccine uptake rates.

Individuals from ethnic minority groups are more likely to have severe disease requiring intensive care admission and sadly succumb to infection than those from a white ethnic background. These outcomes are independent of age, gender or socioeconomic factors.

However, vaccine uptake has been low in certain communities and for lots of different reasons. These include specific concerns about vaccine safety, exposure to misinformation, reduced access to vaccines and historical distrust with institutions.

Asylum seekers have cited negative experiences with authorities and some don’t trust public health messaging related to vaccines. Central government often use one-way messaging, which will sometimes miss these groups.

We encourage a two-way dialogue in the hope that these groups can trust us with providing evidence-based answers to queries and enable informed decision making before getting a vaccine.

Working with community organisations

We found approximately 200 community organisations online that provide community, religious or social support to individuals and groups across the UK. We approached these organisations to invite us to any online meetings being held during the lockdown in order to provide information about the vaccine, answer questions and encourage dialogue.

We encourage a two-way dialogue in the hope that these groups can trust us with providing evidence-based answers to queries.

Our intention has been not to overwhelm people with information, so we do not use presentation slides or overly scientific language. The majority of our meetings are therefore spent listening to concerns or questions, addressing these directly and encouraging conversation. 

We have spoken to organisations that support asylum seekers, refugees, interfaith groups and elderly ethnic minority citizens. Concerns have ranged from the risk of deportation by registering for a vaccine, addressing misinformation circulating in specific communities and discussing a range of vaccine safety concerns.

Who is involved?

This initiative is conducted by Dr Seilesh Kadambari and Dr Samantha Vanderslott. We are based at Oxford Vaccine Group and use information and materials from the Vaccine Knowledge Project.

The Vaccine Knowledge Project has also worked with the British Islamic Medical Association to develop FAQs about vaccines and vaccine ingredients translated into over 100 different languages and available on the website. This resource has been shared with communities through these online conversations.

Our aim has been to provide individuals with sufficient confidence to receive a vaccine and therefore ensure protection against a pandemic that has exacerbated disparities.

For information and materials on vaccination, check out the Vaccine Knowledge Project.

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