It’s More Than Just A Vaccination

As the UK vaccination programme achieves 873,784 jabs in the past 24 hours, it is bringing to mind much wider issues that are clearly toxic and also represent a sense of unfairness in society. The Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (B.A.M.E) inequalities that are freely talked about really represent discrimination if they are not being addressed.

Vaccine hesitancy means putting off having the jab, or completely saying no. These issues are as old as the smallpox vaccination, but bear in mind that the World Health Organisation (WHO) now includes vaccine hesitancy as one of its top ten threats to global health. In the UK, 9% of adults report vaccine hesitancy, but this figure is highest in Black adults at 44%. Whilst building trust is so very important, trying to understand people’s worries and concerns also plays a part. Everyone needs to be mindful of the anti-vaccine stories that are shared on social media and that not all of these are based on scientific evidence. It’s worrying that the B.A.M.E community are more affected by COVID19 yet have more hesitancy when it comes to having a vaccination that could help to protect them from a serious and potentially life threatening disease.

Whilst the term B.A.M.E seems to be widely accepted as ok to use, I’m going to use this article to raise the idea that maybe it’s not. I don’t think that using an umbrella term to “catch all” non-white people helps anyone. The health beliefs and health behaviours of the many ethnic groups in the B.A.M.E definition will be vastly different. For example, worry about long term effects of vaccines and a lack of trust are common in Black people, whereas a worry about vaccine side effects might worry other groups. That means that if the health requirements of ethnic groups are varied, then any services needed to meet them will be different too: what works for inequalities in the Black community can’t then just be applied to the Asian community.

Such inequalities really need a mass community approach in order to address them. It was nice to see how the Newcastle General Practitioners Services (NGPS) faced up to this issue. As a GP I have worked for NGPS both on the telephone and in the Emergency Department. Thanks to them, I’ve actually received both doses of the vaccine and it’s not just a sense of my own health that came to mind – It’s about protecting everyone else in the community too. If by being vaccinated I can stand up and be a role model to encourage others to be vaccinated too, then I’m a happy man. I was driving behind the NGPS “Covid Vaccination Bus” on the way to my second jab: this bus was used to improve vaccination uptake by visiting homeless hostels, as well as visiting the Newcastle Muslim Centre. This all makes sense in the context of a community approach to addressing inequalities.

It’s exciting times as it looks like Teakisi will be taking a much larger role in the community like this too. The potential of Teakisi to be a Community Resource and to provide outreach services is there. With the skills mix that we have, we are well placed to address inequalities in a variety of different ways. Salha’s been vaccinated too and I’m sure she has a vision for Teakisi as it makes the transition into a bigger player in community services.

Salha: Yes I have been vaccinated with the first doze of the covid jab and plan to take my second one in May, Insha’Allah.

While many Black individuals are actively seeking out the vaccine, there is still a very huge number of those that are not – no thanks to the misconceptions and myths surrounding the vaccine and its effects on Black people. Like Dr. Jefferson mentioned above, a lot of these theories are not based on scientific facts, but on fears spread by people with their own agendas. This comes on top of other evidence that certain groups have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic:

  • Disabled people have death rates 2–3 times higher than non-disabled people, according to ONS data.
  • People from a black and minority ethnic background are more likely to report that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on their income, with 43% reporting a negative financial impact compared to 35% overall, according to polling conducted by Ipsos MORI*.
  • Young people are most likely to have lost employment, with 1 in 3 of 18–24-year-olds having been furloughed or lost their job – twice the rate of working-age adults overall, according to analysis by the Resolution Foundation and the Health Foundation.
Salha getting her first Covid19 jab.

Having said that, I do appreciate that the reality of vaccination is a bit more complex, which sometimes includes medical mistrusts due to ongoing health inequalities. From my own personal experience, I would say that the vaccination was safe and I’m glad I didn’t get any side effects from it. The whole process from walking in at the Parks centre in North Shields to finish took less than 30 minutes. I would like to encourage everyone from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities especially those who are clinically vulnerable, to book your vaccine once your turn comes.

And here at Teakisi, we are always on the lookout for new ways to educate the community on the importance of COVID-19, steps to take and other health inequalities that our community is facing. And going forward, I would like to see Teakisi support customers and our local and international community to have greater access to a wide range of outreach programmes and services, including partnerships with external organisations and wider community.

References:

COVID-19: ’27 jabs a second’ as UK marks third consecutive record day of vaccinations (msn.com)

Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy among ethnic minority groups | The BMJ

Coronavirus and vaccine hesitancy, Great Britain – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

Why vaccination is safe and important – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Ten threats to global health in 2019 (who.int)

New ‘vaccination bus’ launched in Newcastle to help those who can’t get to Covid-19 vaccine centre – Chronicle Live

(Accessed 21/3/21)

The Health Foundation https://www.health.org.uk/news-and-comment/news/covid-19-now-is-the-time-to-redraw-the-uks-map-of-ine

BMJ Journals https://jech.bmj.com/content/74/9/681

Department of Health https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/stories/aicho.html

(Accessed 28/03/2021)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Daniel Jefferson
Dr. Dan Jefferson, MB BS, MRCGP, PGCert ClinEd, FHEA is the Chair and one of the Directors of Teakisi. He is also a GP Lecturer at Newcastle University who has worked as a doctor with NEAS during the COVID-19 crisis. His interest lies in Mental Health (as a generalist) with training in CBT. Having studied health inequalities since 1995, he feels particularly strongly about how unjust they are and how they limit people so unfairly. He is a proud dad to two daughters. He enjoys boxing, reading and lots of vinyl (also, he’s a part time DJ!)
COMMENT (3)
Sheila Umuhoza / 29 March 2021

Educate us. Those who haven’t felt like the vaccine is an emergency because of the phobias around it.

Reply
Salha / 30 March 2021

I appreciate you not liking needles, but I don’t think that should take away from the importance of having a vaccination. But makes me wonder what is being done for people like you? Hmmm .. Any feedback Dr. Jefferson?

Reply
Dr. Daniel Jefferson / 1 April 2021

Phobias about a medical procedure such as a vaccination can lead to deep mistrust. The education to which you allude is very important, but this can only be delivered once we know what the specific concern is. That’s why developing a trusting relationship with the healthcare professional that you see is vital so that you can discuss your concerns. Only once we know your fears can we offer any relevant education or reassurance.
Needle phobia specifically is part of the anxiety disorder collective and it does have recognised treatments such as applied tension to prevent fainting, breathing techniques for relaxation, and a “fear ladder” which is essentially a behavioural experiment to face scenarios regarding an injection from least to eventually most difficult.
So the message is please talk- phobias about vaccinations (including needle phobia) are very common. You are not alone. Only then can you be helped.
Preventing COVID-19 is a global emergency and the disease can be life threatening. That makes having the vaccination vital. We can deal with worries and concerns along the way if you share them, but it is the vaccine that will help to prevent you catching a very serious disease.

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