Thousands more people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, as well as those aged over 65, are needed to volunteer in Covid-19 vaccine trials.
Ethnic minority groups are “under-represented” in clinical trials in the UK, despite research showing BAME people are disproportionately affected by coronavirus, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said.
Of the 270,000 people who have signed up to the NHS Vaccine Registry so far, 93% are from non-ethnic minority groups.
Researchers are now calling for more BAME volunteers to come forward, as well as people from other vulnerable groups, such as those with chronic diseases or aged over 65.
Minister for Equalities Kemi Badenoch, who is volunteering in coronavirus vaccine trials conducted by US biotechnology firm Novavax, said: “At home, we have to ensure every community trusts a future vaccine to be safe and that it works across the entire population.
“But with less than half a per cent of people on the NHS Vaccine Registry from a black background, we have a lot more work to do.”
According to Public Health England, people from black backgrounds are statistically more likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19, while death rates are higher for BAME groups.
The Office for National Statistics said people of black ethnicity were 1.9 times more likely to die from a coronavirus-related death than those of white ethnicity.
Six different coronavirus vaccines are currently being developed in the UK, however thousands of people from different ages and backgrounds are needed to help speed up the process, the BEIS said.
Clinical studies with a more diverse pool of volunteers will help researchers better understand the effectiveness of each potential vaccine.
While 270,000 people have signed up to the vaccine registry, only 11,000 are from Asian and British Asian backgrounds, while just 1,200 are black, African, Caribbean or black British, the BEIS said.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “Coronavirus can affect anyone regardless of their background, age or race.
“To ensure we can find a safe and effective vaccine that works for everyone, we all need to get involved.
“That’s why we are urging more people to support our incredible scientists and join the 270,000 people who have already signed up so we can speed up efforts to find a vaccine to defeat this virus once and for all.”
The vaccine registry was launched in July to create a database of people who can be contacted by the NHS to take part in clinical studies.
People who volunteer may be approached by researchers to discuss taking part in studies in the UK.
Kate Bingham, chairwoman of the Government’s vaccine taskforce, said: “Researchers need data from different communities and different people to improve understanding of the vaccines.
“The only way to get this is through large clinical trials.”
To sign up to the vaccine registry, visit www.nhs.uk/researchcontact