Covid-19 vaccines should be offered on a door-to-door basis in areas where deprived, remote and minority ethnic communities live in order to tackle inequality, a race equality think tank has said.
Dr Halima Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust think tank, warned ministers that without door-to-door vaccinations, black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities were particularly at risk of being left unvaccinated.
Speaking to the Guardian, she said that if people were not able or willing to go to and get the vaccine, the NHS vaccine army should go to them.
The NHS offers the Covid jab to people in their own homes if they are registered with their GP has housebound of immobile, with some GPs increasing their efforts to reach patients who may have received an invitation to get the vaccine but have not yet accepted it.
There are over 1,500 vaccination sites throughout the UK, which means over 97 per cent of the population is within 10 miles of a vaccine service, according to NHS England. These include vaccination centres, GP surgeries, hospital hubs and pharmacies.
But Dr Begum told the newspaper that although there are many vaccination centres in inner cities, “a lot of elderly and immobile people are simply unable to get there”.
Her call comes after NHS data showed white people in the top vaccine priority groups were more than twice as likely to have received the coronavirus jab as black people in the early stages of England’s vaccination programme.
Last month, analysis of clinical data from 23.4 million adults revealed a “substantial divergence” in the rates of vaccination between different ethnicity groups in England, with black people accounting for the lowest rate of vaccination among minority ethnic groups.
Analysis by The Independent also showed that poorer areas are vaccinating fewer at-risk people. Among the most deprived parts of the country, fewer people aged over 80 and in their mid-70s received their first dose of vaccine against Covid-19 by 7 February when compared with more affluent areas.
Dr Begum urged the government to focus on finding “innovative ways to improve access to the vaccine” or risk a vaccine divide.
“Because we have a universal health system in the UK, access to the vaccine is presumed as a given,” she told the Guardian. “But what people don’t see if the unequal access to health services which have led to less take-up of health services in deprived communities and areas across the UK.”
She also warned that while “affluent middle classes” are able to demand more from their health services, communities with “less voice” who may face racism “will experience barriers to health access”.