Distrust of vaccines and religious reservations mean that a much lower percentage of ethnic minorities in the UK have been inoculated against coronavirus, resulting in higher numbers of hospitalisation and deaths and the persistence of coronavirus hotspots.
Professor Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia, said: “You don’t have to be an epidemiologist to predict that the proportion of Covid deaths would increase in ethnic minorities, where vaccination rates have been lower.”
In a stark reminder of the high chance of infection, he added: “It’s a grave reminder that if you haven’t been vaccinated, you should, as you will get Covid at some point in the future. When you do, if you haven’t had your vaccine yet, or been naturally infected with the virus before, your risk of dying of Covid is just as great as it was last year.”
While 94 percent of white over-50s have had one dose of vaccine while only 86 percent of South Asians over 50 have been jabbed. The figure for black Britons over 50 is 70 percent.
The gap among younger people is even wider. Only 34 percent of black British adults under 30 have been vaccinated, compared to 62 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds as a whole.
The standard explanation of this is that ethnic communities are poorer, which is certainly the case overall. However, a disproportionate number of ethnic minority health staff died during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, a fact that cannot be explained away by deprivation.
An important factor is that darker skin colour is less likely to resist the coronavirus. Having more melanin – darker people have more of it – reduces the ability to synthesise vitamin D from the sun, resulting in lower 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels, according to the ODS, the Office of Dietary Supplements Organization Data Service in the US. Although vitamin D is not a cure for coronavirus, normal levels of vitamin D help the body to fight respiratory infections.
More research has been done in this field in the US. According to the Center for Disease Control, the coronavirus pandemic is resulting in black people being hospitalised four-times more than white people, with a death rate twice as high.
In the UK the government has prioritised reaching ethnic communities and their young people in a bid to reduce coronavirus rates through higher vaccine take-up.
FILE PHOTO: Reuters