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Why some BAME patients are hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine

Luso Kumwenda says vaccine scepticism stems from a suspicion of the government

BAME hesitancy about the COVID-19 vaccines has roots in myths that can be dispelled by pharmacists, a UKBPA member tells C+D in a podcast.

Uncertainty about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is particularly high among ethnic minority groups. In some communities, the hesitancy has roots in scandals related to other vaccines, according to a member of the UK Black Pharmacists Association (UKBPA).

Luso Kumwenda spoke to C+D clinical and content editor, Naimah Callachand, in a podcast about why some ethnic groups are more reluctant to have the vaccine.


Hesitancy about getting the COVID-19 jab was 72% for black, 42% for Pakistani/Bangladeshi and 32% for mixed ethnic groups, compared with 15% for white people, according to a paper published by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) in January.

Mr Kumwenda says this scepticism stems from a suspicion of the government stoked by knowledge of problems related to other vaccines. These issues include the distribution of the dengue vaccine in the Philippines, which caused a public outcry about its potential to jeopardise children’s health.

World Health Organisation advice published in 2017 says vaccinated individuals who had not had a dengue infection before were at greater risk of severe illness than if they had not received the vaccination.

Many black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities “felt inadequately protected” by the government during the start of the pandemic, Mr Kumwenda claims, which they felt resulted in them being at a higher risk of death from COVID-19. Their mistrust of the vaccines was fed by misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines on social media, he adds.

Pharmacists, especially those of BAME background, are ideally placed to reassure BAME patients about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines, Mr Kumwenda continues.

You can find support on advising patients about vaccinations from organisations including the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and NHS England.

You can listen to the podcast above. Alternatively, subscribe to C+D's podcasts by searching “Chemist+Druggist podcast” on your preferred app or on Soundcloud.

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