DEMAND AN END TO POVERTY THIS GENERAL ELECTION
TAKE ACTION
News

Covid: Health disparities improve but some minority groups still at risk

The new report found the direct impacts of Covid had improved for ethnic minorities as a whole, but some groups were still at risk

Impacts of Covid improve for ethnic minorities but some groups still at risk. Image credit: U.S. Secretary of Defence / Wikimedia Commons

Impacts of Covid improve for ethnic minorities but some groups still at risk. Image credit: U.S. Secretary of Defence / Wikimedia Commons

The Government is ramping up its drive to tackle Covid-19 vaccine misinformation and low uptake rates among people from minority ethnic communities, as new data shows pandemic disparities have improved for some groups but not others. 

The second quarterly report by the Race Disparity Unit (RDU) on tackling Covid inequalities found disparities had improved for Black Africans, Black Caribbeans, Chinese and Indians, but worsened for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis.

Professor Nita Forouhi from the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge said the differences suggested it was “unhelpful” to consider ethnic groups as a single category of BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic).

“The lower Covid-19 death rates in the early second wave in some groups shows that ethnic inequalities are not fixed but are mainly driven by risk of infection and amenable to change,” Forouhi said. 

“The persistent Covid-19 impact in South Asians, particularly Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, is alarming and needs targeted research and bold public health and policy action.” 

Lockdowns have taken income away from hundreds of Big Issue sellers. Support The Big Issue and our vendors by signing up for a subscription.

The virus has disproportionately hit people from minority ethnic groups, with mortality for Black African or Black Caribbean ethnicity at least two times higher than that of white people in 2020. 

But the new report found the direct impacts of Covid had improved for ethnic minorities as a whole during November’s second wave, with work underway to consider why there had been a disproportionate effect on Pakistanis and Bangladeshis.

The report added that deprivation continued to be a “major driver of disparities” and ethnic minorities should not be considered a single group facing similar risk levels. 

More than 18 million people have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine in the UK, but those from minority ethnic groups are less likely to have the jab than their white counterparts. 

The latest OpenSAFELY study, led by Oxford University and  London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, showed approximately 60 per cent of black people over 70 had been vaccinated compared to 75 per cent of South Asians and 90 per cent of white people. 

The Government will now work with dozens of ethnic minority media outlets to reach millions of people who speak different languages and try to tackle misinformation and boost vaccine confidence. 

Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch emphasised the importance of vaccines and called on people to take them up when offered. 

“The latest data shows that this is not a one-size-fits-all situation,” Badenoch said. 

“Outcomes have improved for some ethnic minority groups since the first wave, but we know some communities are still particularly vulnerable. 

“Our response will continue to be driven by the latest evidence and data and targeted at those who are most at risk.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel, and as the vaccine rollout continues, I urge everyone who is offered one to take the opportunity, to protect themselves, their family, and their community.”

But Labour criticised the Government for being to slow to act on the “devastating and disproportionate” impact of Covid on minority ethnic communities.

“The Government must now ensure its vaccine programme reaches every community and addresses the long-standing mistrust and health inequalities that contribute to low take-up,” said Marsha de Cordova MP, shadow women and equalities Secretary.

“It must also recognise that the key drivers of the disproportionate impact – such as profession and where you live – are led by structural racism. We need a clear strategy now to tackle these deep-rooted inequalities.”

The first RDU report on Covid-19 disparities in October concluded that several socioeconomic and geographical factors coupled with pre-existing health conditions had contributed to the higher infection and mortality rates among ethnic minority groups. 

The report made several recommendations for how the Government, NHS and councils could reduce health inequalities and improve outcomes for vulnerable communities.

Another two reports will be presented to the prime minister and health secretary as part of a year-long project.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
'Great pity' major parties are ignoring poverty in election, says Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart
Rory Stewart and Alastair Campbell
General election 2024

'Great pity' major parties are ignoring poverty in election, says Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart

People with learning disabilities need to make their voices heard on election day
Ismail Kaji of Mencap
Learning Disability Week 2024

People with learning disabilities need to make their voices heard on election day

'I want to get out': The fight for people with learning disabilities to live at home – not hospitals
Learning Disability Week 2024

'I want to get out': The fight for people with learning disabilities to live at home – not hospitals

Labour unveils plan to fix rental crisis and immediately axe no-fault evictions
Labour will ban no-fault evictions, confirms Angela Rayner and Keir Starmer
RENTING

Labour unveils plan to fix rental crisis and immediately axe no-fault evictions

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know