Leicester NHS Trust study finds vaccine take-up disparities among BAME staff

Matthew Cooper, PA
·3-min read

A study of an NHS Trust’s workforce has identified doctors, younger workers and ethnic minority staff as having lower than average coronavirus vaccination take-up rates.

Analysis of more than 19,000 healthcare workers (HCWs) at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust indicated that 64.5% had received a Covid-19 vaccine by February 3.

According to the pre-print publication, which has not been peer-reviewed, doctors at the University Hospitals of Leicester trust had the lowest vaccination rate (57.4%) among occupational groups, comparing to 62.5% among nurses and healthcare assistants, and 73.2% for those in administrative and executive roles.

Compared to white healthcare workers, (70.9%), a significantly lower proportion of ethnic minority staff members had taken up a vaccine (South Asian 58.5% and black 36.8%).

The research also suggested that staff who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 were less likely to have taken up the offer of a vaccine.

The study was co-authored by Dr Manish Pareek and GP Kamlesh Khunti, both professors at the University of Leicester.

Covering the period from December 9 to February 3, the publication noted: “Alongside ethnicity, we also found deprivation to be associated with Sars-CoV-2 vaccination uptake, with those living in the most deprived areas being most likely to be unvaccinated.

“Younger healthcare workers were also less likely to be vaccinated than their older colleagues; a likely explanation is a reduced perception of personal risk of adverse outcome from Covid-19.”

After adjustment, factors found to be negatively associated with vaccine uptake also included increasing deprivation.

Of those aged under 30, 51.7% had been vaccinated, with the equivalent figure in the 31-40 age bracket being 57.6%.

The authors said the study, published on medRxiv, had limitations, having data from a single centre, and comprising figures for vaccinations carried out through the Trust, rather than primary care centres.

The report stated: “HCWs who obtained vaccination through primary care will be coded as unvaccinated in our analysis, although we expect these numbers to be small given that few other vaccination centres were in operation prior to establishing vaccination hubs at UHL.

Syringes for Covid-19 vaccines being prepared (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Syringes for Covid-19 vaccines being prepared (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“We cannot predict if HCWs who are currently unvaccinated will take up vaccination in the future, however the numbers of staff taking up the vaccine over time are falling, implying that most who will accept vaccination have already done so.

“These findings have major implications for the delivery of Sars-CoV-2 vaccination programmes, in HCWs and the wider population and should inform the national vaccination programme to prevent the disparities of the pandemic from widening.”

The Trust stressed that the data only covered the period to February 3 and staff vaccination rates had now risen across all ethnic groups, with three-quarters of staff vaccinated.

The Trust, which regularly encourages staff to take up the offer of vaccinations through a variety of channels including staff attitude surveys, is carrying out work to understand the issues raised by the paper, helping to inform further targeted work.

A spokesperson for Leicester’s Hospitals said: “The data is two weeks old and three in four Leicester hospital staff have now been vaccinated, with uptake rising across all ethnic groups, and others taking up the offer of a jab in their local community.

“We want everyone to get the jab when they are called to do so.”

Meanwhile, Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton, said: “Encouraging vaccination for all is the key to getting us out of this crisis.

“It’s important to have as much understanding as possible about any reasons for hesitancy.

“NHS staff also need to be given time to ask vaccination teams about their concerns, talk to those who’ve had the jab and think things through. It can’t just be a one-off opportunity.”