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expert reaction to ONS release on COVID-19 vaccination rates in people aged 70 years and over by socio-demographic characteristic, England: 8 December 2020 to 11 March 2021

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have released data on the the first dose COVID-19 vaccination rates among people aged 70 years and older in England from the 8 December to 11 March 2021.


Prof Robert Dingwall, Professor of Sociology, Nottingham Trent University, said:

“These are interesting and useful data in helping to identify the challenges remaining to be addressed before Phase 1 of the vaccination programme can be said to be completed. It is disappointing that there has not been more emphasis on the areas of success, particularly in increasing the uptake among people of Bangladeshi heritage, which had previously been lagging well behind other South Asian groups. There may be lessons to be learned here for outreach to groups of Black African heritage, although this group is much more diverse: channels for reaching Ghanaians may be quite different from reaching Ugandans or Zimbabweans. There also seems to be some work to be done in getting to more isolated older and disabled people who may find it difficult to attend a vaccination centre or general practice, especially if informal carers are still keeping their distance. It is easy for policymakers with personal transport to assume degrees of mobility that are impracticable for some other citizens. This may also account for the lower penetration of deprived areas, where transport infrastructures and local cultures of solidarity may be important barriers to movement over even small distances to access vaccine clinics.”


Dr Saffron Karlsen, Associate Professor in Sociology, University of Bristol, said:

“Things to take from this chart are that the level of vaccination by ethnic group is varying. Indian people have much higher rates than other ethnic minority groups, although all lower than those of white British. Because the rates in Black Caribbean groups are almost the lowest, that wouldn’t suggest it’s a language issue. We know that there are fewer people at these older ages in ethnic minority groups than white British. As such, the lack of vaccinations in a smaller group might have a bigger impact on these figures – 1% of Bangladeshi people will be a smaller number of people than 1% of white British people.

“There may be some issues of lack of knowledge (linked to educational levels and sources of information) – which Government is trying to respond to – but our research shows that there’s also an issue related to the legacies of racism and the lack of trust in the Government.”


Dr Doug Brown, Chief Executive of the British Society for Immunology:

“Vaccination is the safest and most effective way to protect yourself from getting ill with COVID-19.  Ensuring high uptake of the vaccines is our route out of this pandemic.  The rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations has undoubtedly got off to an extremely strong start, with high overall uptake.  This is something the UK can rightly be proud of. However, we must not be complacent and must strive to reach all individuals. The Office for National Statistics report shows that vaccine uptake is not uniform among all demographics with lower uptake particularly prevalent in some ethnic groups.  We urgently need to engage with these groups to lessen any health inequalities that may be derived from lower vaccine uptake. To build confidence in getting the COVID vaccine, we need to engage deeply with communities to earn their trust and answer their questions and concerns. This is work that the British Society for Immunology and its members are already involved in, but it also requires strong leadership from government and local authorities to provide a uniformed approach.

“The Office for National Statistics report also notes lower vaccine uptake in people who have higher levels of disability. As well as building trust in vaccination, we also need to make sure that vaccination services are accessible to all in our communities. This is something that the dedicated NHS vaccination staff will already be working on but we need to make sure that outreach services to vaccinate some of the people most vulnerable to COVID in our communities are properly resourced.”



All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:



Declared interests

Dr Doug Brown: “Trustee of the Association of Medical Research Charities.”

None others received

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