Low rates of Covid-19 vaccine uptake persist in London
Members of the public receive the AstraZeneca jab at East London Mosque on March 24, 2021 in London. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON boroughs with a substantial Asian population have some of the lowest first and second Covid-19 vaccine intake in the country, statistics showed.
Tower Hamlets has the lowest percentage of second doses administered at 40.3 per cent. According to the 2011 census, more than two thirds (69 per cent) of the east London borough’s population belong to minority ethnic groups.
Newham, also in east London, has one of the lowest percentages of first doses administered. The borough has the largest Asian population (43.5 per cent) in the country.
London mayor Sadiq Khan said authorities were doing “everything possible” to ensure the entire population is fully vaccinated. “We are determined to do everything possible to ensure that all Londoners aged 18 and over are offered their first dose of the vaccine,” he told the BBC.
The most recent government data shows that London show 65.7 per cent of residents have had their first jab, while just 50.6 per have had their second. When figures for the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination are compared, the capital is behind the West Midlands (78.3), the northwest (79.1) and Yorkshire and The Humber (80.3).
Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, said she was “extremely concerned” about the lower vaccination rates in London compared to other parts of the country. She blamed it partly on the capital not getting enough vaccines in large quantities earlier in the year, as well as vaccine hesitancy in some groups. It was also down to the younger population in London, meaning many have only become eligible to receive the jab in recent weeks.
She urged all residents to engage with the vaccination programme, if they were eligible. “We are at a critical juncture in our battle against Covid-19,” she told Eastern Eye. “With restrictions having eased, and infection rates increasing, it is paramount that all those eligible for vaccines get vaccinated. Vaccines remain our best way to breaking the link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths. I urge everyone to take up both their first and second jabs when called.”
The London MP also called for the government to “do more work to ensure those who are hesitant get vaccinated as a matter of urgency.”
Dr Somen Banerjee is the director of public health at Tower Hamlets Council. He told Eastern Eye the council had noted there was a significantly lower uptake in people of Bangladeshi ethnicity in the early stages of the vaccination programme.
The Bangladeshi community makes up almost one third (32 per cent) of Tower Hamlet’s population.
Dr Banerjee said local engagement indicated that reasons included concerns about vaccine safety and barriers to access in familiar settings. In response, the council set up a local multilingual helpline that could speak to residents, answering questions about the vaccine and booking people appointments.
They have also set up clinics in the East London Mosque which run weekly and are “extremely popular with the local community”. “We have done extensive engagement within Bangladeshi community networks to promote vaccination, provide reliable information and help people book their appointments with confidence,” Dr Banerjee explained.
Statistics from July showed an estimated 72 per cent of people of Bangladeshi ethnicity (in the 30-to 49-year-old group) have now had their first dose at least, compared to the borough average of around 60 per cent.
Fighting for vaccines
Meanwhile, Newham is the third lowest in the country for first vaccine doses, behind Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea. The most recent statistics show 57.6 of residents have had their first dose. In recent months, Newham’s mayor Rokhsana Fiaz has expressed concern that the borough had been amongst the hardest hit from Covid-19.
Following the government’s decision to lift all Covid-19 regulations last month, Newham council urged residents to continue wearing facemasks and remain cautious. “I am fighting hard to make sure Newham gets its fair share of vaccinations but until everyone is fully vaccinated, we must keep each other safe by continuing to wear masks as before,” Fiaz said.
In June, she wrote to the government to request a “rightful share of vaccines” for the London borough. Local health partners said they have had to “beg and borrow vaccines from areas” in order to generate the right levels of supply for Newham.
“I am determined to fight for our residents to get the vaccines they have a right to so everyone can get vaccinated at speed,” Fiaz said at the time. “I won’t allow the people of Newham to be left at the back of the queue.”
More than 15,000 people have died from Covid following a positive test in London hospitals. The daily number of new people tested positive for Covid-19 in the capital was reported as 3,227 on July 27.