The government is “very concerned” about the lower take-up of coronavirus vaccines among people from black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, the minister in charge of the immunisation programme has said.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said he was preparing to step up efforts to persuade people to have the jab.
Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday, Zahawi said the approach for making the case for jabs was not to “force it down people’s throats” but instead share information and explain how it is safe.
Concerns have been expressed after recent research from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that white people were twice as likely to have been vaccinated than black people.
“We keep ethnicity data and we are publishing ethnicity data,” Zahawi said.
“We also know what the population is of the top four (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) cohorts and population of the top nine cohorts – that is known to us.
“But because this country, as Boris Johnson quite rightly said, we don’t mandate vaccination, we don’t force it down people’s throats.
“We do it by persuasion, by sharing information, by explaining to people how good it is for them to stay safe for them personally and their family and community.
“We know the level of uptake and to focus on those groups we need to focus on to make sure we get the hard-to-reach groups.
“This is an important issue. We are focusing on it and you will see more from us, with the NHS, so we deliver for all communities.”
Asked about concerns over anti-vaccination messages spreading on social media, Zahawi said online platforms were doing “quite a bit” but work continues.
He said: “We set up a unit across government that looks at all the anti-vax messages and alerts the social media platforms to them to help take them down as quickly as possible.
“We want them to do as much as they can, as quickly as they can, and we’ll continue to work with them very closely, but we can always do more because there is too much.”
Zahawi stressed the need for concerned people to get information from their GPs, particularly black and ethnic minority groups.
He added: “I’ve done numerous roundtables with black and ethnic minority practitioners, nurses, doctors, who have been jabbed themselves, because the best experience is from someone you trust that’s already taken the vaccine.”