Older people from black African backgrounds are more than seven times as likely as white British people to have not received a coronavirus vaccine, official analysis suggests.
Vaccination rates in England up to March 11 were markedly lower in the over-70s who identify as black African and black Caribbean, Muslim, and disabled, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
It is the first time the ONS has published analysis on vaccination rates in older people broken down by age, sex, ethnicity, religious affiliation, disability and deprivation.
It analysed vaccination data from the National Immunisation Management Service (NIMS) on people over 70 between December 8 and March 11, linking this to people’s NHS numbers.
The rate for people in the black African group receiving a first vaccine dose was estimated to be 58.8% – the lowest among all ethnic minority groups.
The estimated rate for people identifying as white British was 91.3%, while overall 90.2% of over-70s had received at least one dose.
The ONS’ statistical modelling found the odds of people from black African backgrounds not having been jabbed were 7.4 times greater than the odds for the white British group.
They remained 5.5 times greater when age, sex, socio-demographic characteristics and underlying health conditions were accounted for.
For people aged 70 and over identifying as black Caribbean the estimated rate of vaccination was 68.7%, with rates of 72.7% and 74.0% for people from Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds respectively.
Vaccination rates also differed by religious affiliation, the ONS found.
The lowest rates were among those who identified as Muslim (72.3%) or Buddhist (78.1%), with lower rates also observed among those identifying as Sikh (87.0%) and Hindu (87.1%).
The figures for people identifying as Jewish and Christian were 88.8% and 91.1% respectively.
The vaccination rate among people aged 70 and over living in the most deprived areas of England was 87.0%, compared with 92.1% in the least deprived, the ONS said.
Disabled people who reported being limited a lot in their day-to-day activities had a vaccination rate of 86.6%, compared with 91.0% of non-disabled people.
The modelling found that people of black Caribbean background were 4.7 times more likely and people identifying as Bangladeshi were 3.9 times more likely than white British adults to have not been jabbed, before adjustments.
Muslims were 3.9 times more likely to have not been vaccinated than Christians, while Buddhists were 2.8 times more likely.
Ben Humberstone, of health analysis and life events at the ONS, said: “Vaccination rates are markedly lower amongst certain groups, in particular amongst people identifying as black African and black Caribbean, those identifying as Muslim, and disabled people.
“These differences remain after accounting for geography, underlying health conditions and certain indicators of socio-economic inequality.”
Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP and chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, said the Government and NHS must step up efforts to tackle hesitancy amid the “deeply alarming low uptake” among ethnic minority groups.
She added. “That means building on some of the successful community-led initiatives we have seen, rather than relying on national campaigns from central Government.”
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said the figures must be a “cause for deep alarm”.
He said: “We need a plan where local community and faith groups are fully resourced to work alongside public health teams, primary care and community pharmacy to drive up rates by building trust and ensuring access to vaccination.
“It would be totally unacceptable for any community to be left vulnerable to infection because of inaction.”
Dr Doug Brown, chief executive of the British Society for Immunology, said the vaccine rollout has had an “extremely strong start”, but warned against complacency, adding: “We urgently need to engage with these groups to lessen any health inequalities that may be derived from lower vaccine uptake.”
Robert Dingwall, professor of sociology at Nottingham Trent University, said there may be lessons to be learned around outreach to groups of black African heritage.
He continued: “There also seems to be some work to be done in getting to more isolated older and disabled people who may find it difficult to attend a vaccination centre or general practice, especially if informal carers are still keeping their distance.
“It is easy for policymakers with personal transport to assume degrees of mobility that are impracticable for some other citizens.
“This may also account for the lower penetration of deprived areas, where transport infrastructures and local cultures of solidarity may be important barriers to movement over even small distances to access vaccine clinics.”
Dr Saffron Karlsen, associate professor in sociology at the University of Bristol, said: “There may be some issues of lack of knowledge (linked to educational levels and sources of information) – which Government is trying to respond to – but our research shows that there’s also an issue related to the legacies of racism and the lack of trust in the Government.”
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and medical director for primary care at NHS England, said: “We have seen a marked increase in uptake among people from Asian or Asian British-Bangladeshi communities, while NHS staff are continuing to do everything possible to reach people in their communities, vaccinating in pop-up clinics and working closely with religious leaders, councils and faith communities, and it is not too late to take up the offer of a jab.”