Vaccine hesitant Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities are becoming more confident about the Covid jab, an NHS boss has said.
Kevin Fenton, London’s public health director, said officials were “seeing improvements over time” as more people get the jab.
It comes amid concern about the lower levels of take-up among BAME communities, with one study suggesting white people were almost twice as likely to have the jab as Black people in the first four priority groups.
Fenton was appearing at a British Asian Trust event, addressed by Prince Charles and vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, aimed at boosting take-up.
On Wednesday, senior government scientist Angela McLean warned that deaths and hospitalisations could become concentrated among BAME groups if there was another wave of Covid after lockdown is lifted.
Fenton said the NHS was engaging with communities in London to boost take up, where he heard “consistent” questions “about the content of the vaccine, the safety profile, were the vaccines rushed, were any people of colour in the trials that were done?”.
“For all of those questions we have answers and we can show the data, and that goes a long way to restore trust,” he said.
It came as NHS primary care director Dr Nikita Kanani told the event that sometimes distrust among BAME communities goes back “over centuries” due to medical mistreatment by the authorities.
But Fenton highlighted a lack of trust as a key issue, as well as myths and disinformation driven by social media, and access.
“The good news is we are seeing improvements over time,” he said.
“Even among communities that were most hesitant a few weeks ago, as more people are getting vaccinated there is more confidence in the vaccine, people’s safety concerns are being addressed.
“And there are more conversations happening between peers, family members, colleagues about the vaccine and I think that’s building confidence.”
Fenton added: “This is not insurmountable, working together, listening to our communities, and having a plan need to be a key part in encouraging all of our communities to take the vaccine.”
Kanani told the event that mistrust was “deep seated”.
“This isn’t about blaming individuals, this is not an individual’s fault, we need to create a vaccine programme and ways of communicating that support everybody to have confidence about taking the vaccine,” she said.
“That is our job and we are committed to doing it.
“But that trust goes over centuries where people have been tested on inappropriately, really traumatic experiences in communities.
“What we want to do, what we need to do, is move past that to make sure people get the vaccine.”