Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy amongst ethnic minority groups in the UK is due to racism, according to a newly published briefing from the Runnymede Trust and The University of Manchester.
The review found that racism was a ‘fundamental cause’ for a reduced vaccine update, with over half of black groups reported to be vaccine-hesitant, compared to 12% of white British groups during the pandemic.
The authors of the report state that ‘vaccine hesitancy’ is misunderstood, and the opportunity to address inequalities was missed.
The new findings suggest that by the time people were deciding whether to have the vaccine, the conditions that created lower vaccination uptake among ethnic minority groups were already present and were related to structural and institutional racism and were not, as has been suggested, related to concerns about the side effects and a lack of trust in the development and effectiveness of the vaccine.
Rates of Covid-19 vaccination uptake have not been equal across ethnic groups in the UK, which could exacerbate negative outcomes of the virus for ethnic minorities and increase health inequalities further.
Using data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study, the researchers show that institutional and community-level factors explain the large majority of ethnic inequities in vaccination rates.
Socioeconomic position, deprivation and overcrowding explained the largest part (42%) of the inequity in vaccine hesitancy for Pakistani or Bangladeshi people. For Indian and Black groups, community-level factors such as ethnic density, community cohesion, political efficacy and racism in the area were the most critical factors for vaccine hesitancy.
Professor Laia Bécares, from King’s College London, said: ‘Vaccine hesitancy puts the blame on individuals instead of addressing the historical and ongoing racism that has contributed to the societal inequities that lead to ethnic inequalities in the distribution and uptake of vaccines.’
The researchers suggest that government policy which intervenes in institutional and community factors would help to reduce ethnic inequities and directly address structural and institutional racism.