The NHS in Devon is supporting people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities (BAME) to take up a potentially life-saving coronavirus vaccination when they are eligible as part of the national programme.
Like other areas of the country, take-up of the vaccination in Devon among some BAME communities is lower than in the overall population.
In Devon, early data modelling suggests people of Black and Asian ethnicity have lower take-up than White British people.
Recent engagement work led by NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group suggests that the reasons for vaccine hesitancy locally mirror concerns identified nationally.
Among the outcomes of the work in Devon were that people taking part in the engagement had concerns regarding:
Vaccine safety, especially as they have been developed more quickly than other vaccines
Concerns about vaccination manufacturers being businesses
Making sure the vaccinations are safe for children
Side effects or complications and assurance processes
On a positive note, feedback also included people saying:
They would be happy to receive it but wanted to wait a while to see if there
were any side effects
Motivation to take the vaccine included prevention being better than cure and
getting vaccinated to help everyone
It was important to set a positive example to the wider community
That personal experiences of illness make a vaccination preferable to disease
No one expressed anxieties about the actual vaccination process/needles
Other local feedback suggests some people from minority groups who were hesitant about having the vaccine wanted translated information materials to debunk myths and show they were being included, and there are worries about effectiveness in the face of new strains, while others couldn’t wait to have a vaccine and praised them as a scientific breakthrough.
In Devon, take up among the white British population is about 85%, while take-up among minority groups is lower, with take-up in most groups ranging from approximately 63% to 76%.
Acting on suggestions made during the engagement, ‘vaccine ambassadors’ representing different BAME communities will be working with local groups to provide information and reassurance so people feel confident to accept an offer of vaccination when they are called as part of the national programme.
Initial support measures put in place by the NHS include:
Asking people from communities where uptake is low or concerns are high to
get in touch with the local NHS so support can be offered – email
Vaccination ambassadors from minority communities attending local community meetings to answer questions and allay worries
Translating key information about registering with GPs into different languages, with further translated materials to follow
Developing a film in partnership with a Devon equality organisation to address concerns people may have
Using social media advertising to reach groups who may be vaccine hesitant with reassurance messaging
Sanita Simadree, Chair of the Devon wide BAME Network for health and care staff, is among those who are working with local communities to increase uptake. She said: “Our members have told us about a lot of misinformation out there and a lack of reliable information so we’re pleased to be working with the NHS in Devon to help everyone get the knowledge they need to allay any concerns they may have.
“I was initially hesitant about having the vaccine but having looked into it, I have now had my jab. I don’t like needles so I wasn’t looking forward to it, but it’s the right thing for me and others.”
Dr Manish Gandhi, consultant cardiologist at Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, and a member of the trust’s recently formed staff BAME network, added: “Covid is a serious and deadly illness. During the past year, the number of people who have died with Covid is similar to the number of people who die with heart attack or stroke or major forms of cancer.
“The good news is that by taking the vaccine, you dramatically reduce your chance of losing your life to Covid, or of having your long-term health affected by it.
“The vaccines have been robustly tested, are safe and effective, and almost never cause serious side-effects.
“I have had the vaccine – the common side effects of having an achy arm, or feeling tired for a day or two, are a price well worth paying for potentially saving your life.”
Cllr Jermaine Atiya-Alla, of Torbay Council, said: “Most people I meet in the Bay are keen to get the jab but I’ve also met people of all backgrounds who have said they have concerns. My message is simple to all of them – go get the vaccine. The vaccines are safe and effective, the side effects are minor, and getting the jab not only protects you, but those around you.”
Nationally, studies have found that death rates from COVID-19 have been higher for Black and Asian ethnic groups when compared to White ethnic groups.
Among those who have already taken up the offer of support from the NHS in Devon is Rev Mike Ileladewa, of The Overcomers Christian Fellowship International in Plymouth. The church is an independent multi-cultural and multi-racial Christian Church where 90% of members are from BAME backgrounds.
Rev Mike Ileladewa, who had his first vaccine dose in January, said: “We wanted to encourage hesitant members of congregation and others, especially from the BAME Christian community, to take the vaccination.
“We held an online event which was attended by representatives of the NHS in Devon to give accurate information about the vaccination. via educational event whereby the experts can demystify confusion surrounding the vaccination. Afterwards people said to me it was informative and motivational and one member of the congregational said he and his wife now felt confidence to take the vaccination.”
Devon public health consultant Sarah Ogilvie said: “We are working to understand and address vaccine hesitancy among people from local BAME communities to ensure that everyone who is eligible can access the vaccination in a way which works for them when it is their turn in the national programme.
“We’ll be adapting and widening the support we can offer to meet the needs of local communities. We’re using the links we have to offer help but we also really encourage individuals or groups who would like some information or support to get in touch and we will work with our vaccine ambassadors to provide it.”
The NHS is supporting people from local BAME communities to take up the vaccine when they are eligible as part of the national vaccine programme:
Currently, people over the age of 55 and certain other groups, including eligible frontline health and social care staff, can use the National Booking Service (via the website or by calling 119) to book a vaccination
People aged 16-64 who are classed as clinically vulnerable by their GP practice are being contacted by their practice to arrange an appointment. There is no need for them to contact their GP about an appointment unless they have already declined an invitation and would now like to book one.
All other adults will be invited when it is their turn as part of the national programme – please do not contact the NHS at this stage.