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28 March 2022

Lower trust and worse experiences of healthcare have contributed to an "ethnicity gap" in Covid vaccine uptake

According to new research by the Policy Institute and the University of Sheffield

covid vaccine

Trust and experiences of NHS healthcare do not fully explain demographic disparities in coronavirus vaccination uptake in the UK

Read the research

Worse healthcare experiences among people from ethnic minorities and lower levels of trust in the medical establishment and government explain some of the ethnicity gap in Covid-19 vaccination rates, a study has found. 

Published in the British Medical Journal publication, BMJ Open, the research finds these factors account for roughly a quarter of the difference in Covid vaccine uptake between members of white ethnic groups and members of other ethnic groups. The fact that the rest of this difference remains unexplained is “cause for concern,” the researchers conclude. 

The academics, from King’s College London and the University of Sheffield, say there is an urgent need for further research to find out what could explain the rest of the gap. Practical barriers to accessing Covid vaccination services, as well as the types of information sources being consulted, conspiracy beliefs about Covid, and attitudes to vaccination in general, might potentially explain the rest of the gap, they suggest. 

Like previous studies, the new research finds that people from ethnic minority groups report lower patient satisfaction and worse healthcare experiences in the UK. This latest study additionally finds that ethnic disparities in trust are closely related to poorer reported experiences of NHS healthcare. The authors argue that this should serve as a reminder of the very real problem of ethnic disparities in healthcare experiences and outcomes, whether those disparities have a population-level impact on Covid vaccine uptake or not. 

The findings are based on statistical analysis of survey data from 4,885 UK adults. 

Dr Daniel Allington, lead study author and Senior Lecturer in Social and Cultural Artificial Intelligence at King’s College London, said: 

“People from other than white ethnic groups have worse experiences of NHS healthcare, and our research suggests that this may lead them to place less trust in medical authorities. This is likely to be a problem, not only for the Covid vaccination programme – which has now saved millions of lives – but also for many other public health issues.” 

Siobhan McAndrew, principal investigator of the overarching research project and Senior Lecturer in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at the University of Sheffield, said: 

“This study is important not only because of what it tells us about health inequalities and the importance of trust, but also because our findings focus attention on what healthcare and other public institutions do in order to generate trust or distrust, especially with regard to minority groups.”