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In U.K., Concern Grows Over Vaccine Hesitancy Among Minority Groups

2021-01-25 16:56:06

LONDON – Health experts, doctors and government officials in Britain are calling for a more coordinated campaign to address vaccine hesitancy among minority groups, and some are also urging those groups to prioritize immunization against the coronavirus because they have more being at risk.

The government said on Monday it would give £ 23 million, or about $ 31 million, to local councils and other groups in England encourage vaccines among those most at risk from the virus, including minority groups, by trying to combat misinformation and build trust in the authorities.

The pandemic has already sharply alleviated persistent racial inequalities in Britain, which have played a role in disproportionately high contamination and death rates among minority groups, and, some say, has increased their mistrust of the government.

Recent polls found that members of black, Asian and other minority groups in the country are less open to getting the vaccine than whites, because they are concerned about the reliability of the vaccine. The UK drug regulator, which is recognized as a leading body, has said the vaccines are safe and effective.

"I am aware that some Londoners are hesitant to get the Covid vaccine because they come from communities that have been abandoned by institutions in the past," said London Mayor Sadiq Khan. "But these vaccines are safe and effective, and I urge anyone invited to get one to do so."

The stakes could hardly be higher for countries to address skepticism and concerns about vaccinations. The UK government is counting on a campaign to vaccinate tens of millions of people by April as an escape route from stop-and-start lockdowns and their crippling economic consequences.

Maureen Pryce, a 58-year-old ex-caregiver of Caribbean descent, said she had stopped vaccinations after one of her daughters got a bad reaction a year ago. Even with family members falling ill with the virus and the death toll increasing in her neighborhood, she was determined, she said.

"I don't have it. I refuse," she said this month. "How can we trust you?" She said of the authorities. "You have a history of lying to us."

There are deep-rooted reasons for a distrust of health care among minority groups, experts say, with a history of abuse and racism in the medical world. 40 years ending in 1972, doctors deliberately treated African-American men infected with syphilis to study the course of the disease. In Nigeria, Pfizer agreed to a $ 35 million settlement with Kano State after 11 children died in a 1996 lawsuit an experimental drug for meningitis.

And two French doctors caused a protest last April when they proposed Covid vaccines must be tested in African countries, where people had less access to personal protective equipment.

As a growing number of people have been given the vaccine without incident, hesitation seems to be generally waning in Britain, according to a YouGov poll in January. As of Monday, about 6.5 million in Britain, out of a population of about 67 million, had received a first dose of the vaccine.

But in a survey of 12,035 people At the behest of the government's scientific advisory group, hesitation about vaccines was greater among black Britons and those of Pakistani, Bengali and other ethnic backgrounds.

For example, in the city of Birmingham, a health official said that anecdotal evidence suggested that about half of those belonging to minority groups invited to receive vaccines rejected them. according to the BBC.

Minority members aren't the only skeptics. In fact, many are “desperate” for a vaccine that hasn't come soon enough, said Halima Begum, the CEO of Runnymede Trust, a London-based organization that advocates for racial equality, adding that she had two siblings with Covid. 19. in the hospital.

Still, health experts and lawmakers have called for more data on the introduction of vaccines across ethnic backgrounds, which they say is lacking, and to improve vaccine safety reporting to people of color.

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Answers to your vaccine questions

While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary by state, medical providers and residents of long-term care facilities are likely to come first. If you want to know how this decision comes about, this article will help you.

Life will only return to normal if society as a whole is given adequate protection against the corona virus. Once countries have approved a vaccine, they can vaccinate up to a few percent of their citizens in the first few months. The unvaccinated majority will still remain vulnerable to becoming infected. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines offer robust protection against illness. But it is also possible for people to spread the virus without even knowing they are infected because they experience only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Scientists do not yet know whether the vaccines also block the transmission of the coronavirus. So for now, even vaccinated people will have to wear masks, avoid crowds indoors, and so on. Once enough people have been vaccinated, it will be very difficult for the coronavirus to find vulnerable people to infect. Depending on how quickly we as a society reach that goal, life could begin to approach almost normal by the fall of 2021.

Yes, but not forever. The two vaccines that may be approved this month clearly protect people from getting sick with Covid-19. But the clinical trials that produced these results were not designed to determine whether vaccinated people could still spread the coronavirus without developing symptoms. That remains a possibility. We know that people who are naturally infected by the coronavirus can spread it without having a cough or other symptoms. Researchers will study this question intensively as the vaccines hit the market. In the meantime, even vaccinated people will have to see themselves as potential spreaders.

The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is given as an injection into the arm, like other typical vaccines. The injection will be no different from the one you received before. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines and none of them have reported any serious health problems. But some of them have felt some momentary discomfort, including pain and flu-like symptoms that usually last for a day. People may need to schedule a day off at work or school after the second admission. While these experiences are unpleasant, they are a good sign: they are the result of your own immune system coming into contact with the vaccine and developing a powerful response that will provide long-lasting immunity.

No. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use a genetic molecule to boost the immune system. That molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse with a cell, allowing the molecule to slip in. The cell uses the mRNA to make coronavirus proteins that can stimulate the immune system. Each of our cells can contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules at any given time, which they produce to make their own proteins. Once those proteins are made, our cells shred the mRNA with special enzymes. The mRNA molecules that our cells make can only survive for a few minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is designed to resist the cell's enzymes for a little longer so that the cells can make extra virus proteins and elicit a stronger immune response. But the mRNA can take up to a few days to be destroyed.

Opposition lawmakers have lobbied the health secretary, Matt Hancock, to consider adding minority groups to a vaccine priority list, using mortality statistics. Doctors received some guidance from the National Health Service to prioritize minority ethnic groups if they were already eligible for their age, said Prof. Martin Marshall, president of the Royal College of General Practitioners.

The Ministry of Health has said that priority for vaccinations would be given to older adults and people with underlying health problems, including in black and minority ethnic groups.

But GPs, especially those working in multi-ethnic areas, have raised concerns about vaccination skepticism.

To counter misinformation, local officials and community leaders have sent messages in various languages ​​that the approved vaccines, while accelerated, have been found to be safe and effective.

But there is a lot of misinformation online. There are unfounded claims that the vaccine is a population control method, that it could alter a recipient's DNA, or that it contains animal products such as pork, which could lead to conflict with some religious practices.

Imams dedicate sermons this month reassuring the Muslim community that the vaccine is halal and advise people to take it if offered. Doctors hold Zoom sessions to answer questions for the Sikh community.

Rhoda Ibrahim, a British-Somali community leader in London, said videos featuring Somali actors were made to raise awareness about testing, wearing masks and vaccines.

Nadhim Zahawi, Iraqi-born British Minister responsible for vaccine deployment, told BBC Radio last week he worried that minority ethnic groups would disproportionately refuse the vaccine and be more likely to become infected. But he said Monday he was working with faith and community leaders to raise awareness that vaccines are safe.

Still, many say the UK government should have invested much earlier to respond to these concerns.

Glory Nyero, a black social care and housing analyst from London, said she was wary of the health care system and feeling that British institutions didn't always understand people of color.

“In the end, I get it if I have to,” she said of the vaccine, adding that she was worried that her newborn baby would contract the virus.

"To be told that the vaccine has only been tested and gone within a year – that's causing a lot of hysteria," she said.

Government critics said that in a year when racial injustice had become a global concern, lawmakers were not doing enough to protect people of color, despite a review of data showing marked differences in the toll of the coronavirus.

"Color blind policies harm those most affected," said Ms Begum of the Runnymede Trust. She says she wants urban areas where many minority groups live to be vaccinated first.

Part of the pandemic's toll gap could stem from long-term inequalities in wealth and housing, according to a government investigationand also noted that people of color were more likely to have jobs with greater exposure to the virus, such as in healthcare and food production.

They were also more likely to have pre-existing health problems, such as diabetes and obesity, the review added, increasing the risk and severity of the infection, and may be less likely to seek help when needed due to historical racism and negative experiences with health care or at work.

Salman Waqar, a general practitioner and general secretary of the British Islamic Medical Association, is one of them work to persuade people to take vaccines.

"Any community that is ignored and neglected is particularly vulnerable," he said. "That vulnerability is now being exploited by the anti-vaccination messages coming in."

Benjamin Mueller contributed to reporting.


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