A charity has said there is “alarming” racial inequality in England for people who are severely immunocompromised and need a third Covid-19 vaccine.
Blood Cancer UK said 84% of immunocompromised people of white British descent had received three doses of the vaccine by mid-December, compared with just 43% of immunocompromised people of Pakistani descent.
He added that the figures were 46% for people of African descent, 47% for people of Caribbean descent and 49% for people of Bangladeshi descent.
The charity analyzed data from NHS England following a freedom of information request using statistics up to December 14, 2021.
It indicates that while some of the difference in third dose uptake may be due to varying levels of vaccine hesitancy, this does not explain why the gap for third doses is much larger than the gap for the first two doses.
An example given by the charity is a 14% difference in uptake of the first two doses between immunocompromised white British people (95%) and those of Pakistani origin (81%), but the gap between the absorption of the two groups of the third dose was 41 percentage points.
“Similarly, for the first two doses, there was an 11 percentage point gap between white Britons and people of Bangladeshi descent, but for the third dose, this gap increased to 35 percentage points,” said he added.
The charity says it believes the main reason for this is the “chaotic and poorly communicated rollout of third doses” for immunocompromised people.
Updated figures from NHS England up to January 26 show that 73% of people of African descent, 78% of people of Caribbean descent and 73% of people of Bangladeshi descent have received their third dose of the vaccine.
Third doses for severely immunocompromised people may also change regularly due to the treatments they receive for their illnesses.
Gemma Peters, chief executive of Blood Cancer UK, said: “We know that people from ethnic minorities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and it is alarming that there is a clear racial disparity in the deployment of third doses. for immunocompromised people.
“This means that many thousands of people from ethnic minorities who are among the most vulnerable to Covid do not have the protection they would have if their community had received a third dose at the same rate as white Britons.
“As a result, we are concerned that immunocompromised people from ethnic minorities died of Covid who would have lived if they had been white Britons.”
Henny Braund MBE, chief executive of the Anthony Nolan charity, said: ‘This deeply depressing disparity in vaccine uptake among the most vulnerable group needs to be urgently investigated. Our own research shows that ethnic minority stem cell transplant patients face more barriers to accessing care, so it is clear that there is a lack of accountability for these patients.
“The lack of leadership for immunocompromised people has resulted in muddled communication which, as these findings illustrate, particularly affects patients from ethnic minorities. Anthony Nolan is urging the government to appoint a dedicated immunocompromised lead, so that there is clear direction and accountability to prevent patients from being left behind.
In November, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced a review of possible racial and gender bias in medical devices.
The review, which will see UK authorities working alongside the US, will look at the introduction of a new international standard to ensure medical devices have been tested on people of different races before widespread use.
NHS England has produced a toolkit to help local operational teams engage with different communities.
This includes creating resources in different languages and sending letters to immunocompromised patients who qualify for third doses and offering them their next dose and their GPs.
A spokesperson for NHS England said: “Adoption among ethnic minorities has increased significantly since this data was provided, with more than nine in 10 most vulnerable eligible people now having received their third shot.
“The NHS continues to work with hospital clinicians, GPs and patient charities to identify those who are eligible for a third dose, and now also a booster, to ensure vaccines are easily accessible and protect those who are severely immunocompromised.