Covid-19 vaccine rollout worsened existing health inequalities, find researchers

Online public discussion groups with diverse members of the Greater Manchester community identified themes which could explain the inequalities.

Stephanie Gillibrand, another Manchester researcher involved in the study said: “Existing mistrust stemming from racism, experiences of culturally insensitive healthcare, and awareness of previous unethical healthcare research were all themes raised in discussion groups.

“concerns about potential unknown side-effects of Covid-19 vaccines compared to existing vaccines may have been heightened among people from minority ethnic groups due to their underrepresentation in Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials.”

“Additional research is required to further explore the complex social, political and structural drivers and barriers to vaccine uptake which drive these statistics, as highlighted by our public engagement work”

Nicolas Filer, a public contributor involved in the study said: “Especially interesting was the clear exposure of differences in vaccine uptake within different ethnic minority groups and communities within the broader widely used classifications.

“Once the more special needs of some of our community were recognized and responded to by the NHS, their vaccine take up was greatly increased.”

Dr Watkinson added: “Even for healthcare services provided free at the point of use, disadvantaged populations with the greatest ‘need’ for care tend to have lower uptake of services.

“Residential segregation driven by systemic racism may have resulted in barriers – in terms of journey time and cost – to accessing large centralised vaccination sites for some communities.

“However, local solutions such as vaccine pop ups and local centres have now expanded vaccine access across Greater Manchester. These innovations, alongside providing culturally-sensitive vaccination options, are crucial for equitable access.”

Issues around racism were raised in the discussion groups. Some people from ethnic minority backgrounds reported difficulties booking and traveling to vaccination appointments, as well as a lack of official vaccine information translated into additional languages.

While Covid-19 vaccines were initially only available at booked appointments in mass vaccination centres, flu vaccines are available through GP practices and community pharmacies, which often operate drop-in services and are more accessible in areas of high deprivation.

The research team recognise the partnership of Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, Health Innovation Manchester and Graphnet Health, on behalf of GM localities in the provision of data required to undertake the work. This work uses data provided by patients and collected by the NHS as part of their care and support.

The paper Ethnic inequalities in Covid-19 vaccine uptake and comparison to seasonal Influenza vaccine uptake in Greater Manchester, UK: a cohort study is available here

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