A group of social media influencers with large followings on Instagram will post about the issue, underpinned by factual information from the BMA about the safety of the vaccine. The influencers include doctors, writers, and an activist from ethnic minority backgrounds.
The campaign’s message is to ‘spread the word not the virus’, giving a positive message about the benefits of vaccination. It will drive the audience to the BMA website, where it will explain the benefits of vaccinating the population quickly, give some personal material from doctors from ethnic minority backgrounds on their vaccine experiences, and some myth-busting material. The doctors participating include three GPs – Evan Sun, Ekene Clair Agbim and Onyinye Okonkwo. The two agencies working on the campaign, Motel and Insense, are giving their services for free.
The campaign follows growing evidence that there are higher rates of vaccine hesitancy among ethnic minority populations.
Polling commissioned by the Royal Society for Public Health found that 57 per cent of respondents from ethnic minority backgrounds were likely to accept a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 79 per cent of white respondents. Confidence was lowest among respondents of Asian ethnicity, of whom 55% were likely to say yes. ONS data on vaccination take-up for over-70s showed stark disparities in take-up by ethnicity.
The percentage vaccinated between 8 December and 11 March was lower among all ethnic minority groups compared with the white British population (91.3 per cent). The lowest vaccination rates were observed among people identifying as Black African and Black Caribbean (58.8 per cent and 68.7 per cent respectively), followed by people from Bangladeshi (72.7 per cent) and Pakistani (74.0 per cent) backgrounds.
The BMA has, from the start of the pandemic, highlighted the greater impact of COVID on ethnic minority communities, calling for a review to understand the reasons behind this as well as ensuring adequate risk assessments are in place for staff who come from them.
To tackle the specific issue of low take-up of vaccines the BMA has produced guidance and a blog with the aim of providing doctors with clear information, advice and reassurance for patients who are unsure or uncertain about the issue.
BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘We are delighted to be working with these social media creators and we are grateful to them for giving up their time. The first videos have already been viewed over 400,000 times and what we’re asking now is for people to spread the word about the benefits of vaccinations in the hope that we might all tackle some of the uneasiness and mistrust around them.’
The BMA has also highlighted the many excellent efforts by doctors in addressing patient concerns and seeking to improve vaccination rates. This includes the work of Leicester GP Azhar Farooqi and colleagues, who rang patients one by one to encourage them to come and receive their jabs.