Last reviewed 26 January 2021

NHS England has encouraged GPs to use their relationships with patients and the wider community to share accurate information about the Covid-19 vaccination to strengthen uptake among all groups.

NHS England officials described some of the harmful misconceptions being shared about the Covid-19 vaccine, at a webinar for primary care staff on 20 January, and was reported by GPonline.

GPs across England have raised concerns over low uptake among Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) patients, warning that misinformation has left patients reluctant to come forward. Participants in the webinar were told that some patients in BAME communities are being discouraged from getting vaccinated due to misinformation that the vaccines contain porcine substances and alcohol. False information included fears that it can alter people's DNA. The presentation stressed that communication from trusted professionals “is powerful” and encouraged teams to tailor information to their communities to encourage uptake.

Suggestions from NHS England included spreading information via social media, posting photos of themselves having the jab, and involving religious leaders and local councillors who can reach large numbers of people.

The King’s Fund Senior Fellow Dan Wellings responded on 16 December 2020 to the results of a survey commissioned by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), which showed that BAME groups are less likely to want the Covid-19 vaccine. He said they added to mounting evidence that “hesitancy about the vaccine is disproportionately high in some of the communities that have already been hardest hit by the pandemic.”

His blog, Local Listening: Fears and Concerns about Covid-19 Vaccination, said some groups are concerned that vaccines would not have been tested on people who represent their communities, leading to wider concerns about its safety. There are concerns around some of the companies behind the vaccines, a view that people who do not get the vaccine will not be allowed to travel, and about whether vaccines would be allowed on religious grounds.

Dan Wellings said the work needed to understand what is driving vaccine hesitancy within these communities was best done locally, and that lessons need to be learned from recent government programmes that have “fallen flat” because they were too centralised and failed to adequately involve those who know and work closely with their local communities.

He added: “Without concerted efforts to get the vaccine to the most hesitant population groups, there is a risk the vaccination programme will further entrench the inequalities that have been so brutally exposed by the pandemic.”

NHS England’s advice is to prioritise the BAME community within the first over-80s cohort for vaccination, following Public Health England (PHE) findings that that BAME groups have higher rates of infection, and higher rates of serious disease, morbidity and mortality as a result of Covid-19 infection. The PHE report is at Priority Groups for Coronavirus (Covid-19) Vaccination: Advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI), 30 December 2020.

A Kings College London and Ipsos MORI survey that looks at who is least likely to get a Covid-19 vaccine is available at https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/whos-least-likely-say-theyll-get-covid-19-vaccine