Three in ten black people over 50 still haven’t been vaccinated in England, new figures show.
The Office for National Statistics today said black Caribbean and black African people are the least likely over-50s to have got a jab, at 66.8% and 71.2% respectively.
They were followed by people from Pakistani backgrounds, 78.4% of whom were vaccinated at age 50 or over.
This compares with 93.7% of white British adults, with estimates for all ethnic minority groups lower than this.
Vaccination rates were estimated to be lower in people of Muslim or Buddhist faiths, those who do not speak English, those living in more deprived areas and disabled people.
Caroline Lucas, vice-chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on coronavirus, said community engagement has shown it is possible to “overcome deep-seated mistrust” but it must be done at the grassroots level rather than “imposed by Whitehall”.
She added: “The pandemic has already exposed deep inequalities in our society.
“Dividing people into the vaccinated and unvaccinated through schemes like vaccine passports risks making this worse and alienating the communities where vaccine take-up is already low, particularly if they are used to restrict access to everyday services. That must not be allowed to happen.”
Dr Ben Kasstan, a medical anthropologist at the University of Bristol, said the data raised urgent questions about the delivery of the vaccination programme in ethnic and religious minority communities and lessons learned.
He said: “Putting issues in accessibility aside, policymakers need to look at how long-running issues of trust and social exclusion may be being directed towards the coronavirus vaccine programme, and thinking intersectionally across race, religion, and socioeconomic status will be essential as we move forward.”
The ONS said lower take-up could reflect access problems.
Hugh Stickland, head of strategy and engagement at the ONS, said the lower rates are “broadly similar to the groups who express vaccine hesitancy”, adding: “However, the reasons for lower uptake are likely to be complex, including for example being unable to travel to a vaccination centre.”
It is the second 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 data from the National Immunisation Management Service (NIMS) on people over 50 between December 8 and April 12, linking it to people’s NHS numbers.
Differences in geography, socio-demographic factors and underlying health conditions do not fully explain the lower vaccination rates among ethnic minority groups, the ONS found.
Statistical modelling showed the odds of not having received a dose of a vaccine were 7.4 times greater for people from black Caribbean backgrounds compared with people of white British ethnicity.
After adjusting for age, sex, socio-demographic characteristics and underlying health conditions, the odds were still 5.6 times greater.
For people identifying as black African, the unadjusted odds were six times greater, while the adjusted odds were 3.4 times higher.
The ONS also found a relationship between proficiency in English language, as recorded in the 2011 census, and vaccination rates.
Estimated rates were 75.3% among those who do not speak English at all, 75.9% for people who do not speak English well, and 92.7% for those whose main language is English.
The vaccination rate among people living in the most deprived areas of England was 87.8%, compared with 94.5% 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 89.3%, compared with 92.3% for non-disabled people.
The lowest rates among religious groups were for those who identified as Muslim (78.8%) or Buddhist (83.3%), while the figures for people identifying as Christian or Hindu were 93.2% and 92% respectively.