COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among black people in UK halves, new data suggests

Vaccine hesitancy among black people in the UK has halved, recent data suggests.

Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures from 17 February to 14 March suggest that 22% of black adults in the UK reported coronavirus vaccine hesitancy, down from 44% the previous month.

The news comes in the same week Sir Lenny Henry penned an open letter calling on black people to take the COVID vaccine.

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The letter was signed by several household names, including Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, actor Thandie Newton, radio host Trevor Nelson and author Malorie Blackman.

The group asked people to "trust" the vaccine and not let "concerns be the thing that widens racial inequality in our society".

In January, scientific advisers to the government found that vaccine hesitancy was highest in black or black British groups, followed by south Asian communities.

In February 2020, the head of the NHS in England, Sir Simon Stevens, said the country was fighting both coronavirus and disinformation, but that progress was being made on vaccine uptake among black and south Asian communities.

A significant factor contributing to vaccine hesitancy in some communities is widely thought to be misinformation spread over WhatsApp.

Faith groups such as the Muslim Council of Britain have been pushing back on the disinformation, creating myth-buster and explainer messages.

The most recent ONS data found that positive vaccine sentiment had increased by 94%, while 12% of 16-29-year-olds reported vaccine hesitancy.

The Queen has also encouraged people to take the vaccine, endorsing the programme during a video call.

The most recent ONS data comes as almost 31 million people have been vaccinated in the UK.

On 30 March, the number of second doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered in a single day exceeded that of first doses.

A total of 270,526 second doses were registered on Tuesday, compared to 224,590 first jabs.

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On Wednesday, a vaccination centre in Walthamstow was inundated with people after the council posted a social media message offering people spare vaccines.

Principal research officer at the ONS, Tim Vizard, said: "Over the past few months, we have seen attitudes across most of the population becoming more positive towards COVID-19 vaccination.

"However, there is still hesitancy among some groups, including young people, black or black British and those living in the most deprived areas."

It comes as some countries in Europe have suspended using the Oxford-Astra-Zeneca jab amid concerns it can cause rare blood clots.

Germany has suspending its use among under-60s, while Denmark has extended its suspension despite the European Medicines Agency finding no evidence to support restricting the jab – and stating that any risk is hugely outweighed by the protection it offers.

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