I’ve taken the vaccine - we must protect our parents, elders and grandparents

Tulip Siddiq MP

Tulip Siddiq MP - Credit: PA/Yui Mok

The success of the vaccine rollout has been a beacon of hope at the darkest of times, and I would like to pay tribute to all the NHS staff, volunteers and others working tirelessly to get Britain vaccinated and bring this pandemic to an end.

I was thrilled to see data suggesting a take up rate of over 90% in the groups who have been offered vaccines. However, it soon became clear that the encouraging top line figures were masking some very concerning truths.

As of February 11, when 88% of white people aged over 70 had received a first dose, just 57% of Black people had been jabbed, despite being twice as likely to get Covid-19.

People from South Asian communities are also more at risk, yet vaccine coverage for them was 15% lower than for white people.

There is also evidence the far fewer BAME staff in the NHS have been coming forward for vaccination, with particularly low levels of take-up amongst those from Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Caribbean and African backgrounds.

Shockingly, ethnicity has so far been the biggest factor in determining the likelihood of someone receiving a vaccine if they have been offered one.

For the last few months, I have been volunteering at a vaccination centre in the constituency, and that’s given me the chance to speak to the BAME people coming in and understand their concerns. Many of those I’ve spoken to say that there is significant scepticism about the vaccine in some communities, rooted in mistrust of systems that have failed them in the past.

There is also misinformation that has been allowed to spread too easily. A Muslim lady I spoke to was concerned that the vaccine may contain gelatine products, even though there are no animal products in any of the Covid-19 vaccines being rolled out in the UK.  There is no evidence that the vaccine affects fertility, yet this is an issue that several young women mentioned.

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One man told me he was taking the vaccine against his better judgement because he thought it had been developed too quickly to be safe. We have all been taken aback by the speed with which the vaccines were developed, but this is testament to the huge efforts of world-leading scientists and the vast resources that were poured into it. The process of conducting clinical trials and evaluating the results was also made more efficient, but no less rigorous.

This anecdotal evidence of distrust is borne out by recent research by Hope Not Hate, which found lower confidence in vaccine safety amongst BAME people for these due to bad experiences with the system and misinformation.

If not enough BAME people are vaccinated, then we could see a very worrying rise in cases amongst our communities when lockdown restrictions eased. Having already suffered disproportionately from this virus, we must not allow Covid-19 to take more lives in our communities. We all have our part to play in avoiding it by taking the vaccine and encouraging others to do the same.

I would encourage everyone to take the vaccine when it is offered to them. Even if you feel like you don’t need it, taking the vaccine will protect your parents, elders and grandparents. This is particularly important for intergenerational households which is how many of our communities live.

I’ve taken the vaccine due to health reasons and so has my mother. We are not only protecting ourselves but also others around us. That should be something to celebrate.

  • Tulip Siddiq is MP for Hampstead and Kilburn.