COVID-19 vaccinations among Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups: Learning the lessons from influenza

Acharya, Amish; Lam, Kyle; Danielli, Shaun; Ashrafian, Hutan; Darzi, Ara
International Journal of Clinical Practice

Background The COVID-19 vaccination roll-out continues to grow at significant pace around the world. There is, however, growing concern regarding vaccine hesitancy amongst Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) populations. Such inequalities have the potential for exposing, an already at-risk population, further. Whilst the COVID-19 vaccination programme is in its infancy, influenza programmes have been undertaken for over 50 years, and may provide invaluable insights. In this commentary, we aim to examine the lessons from influenza vaccinations, and how this can help reduce inequalities with COVID-19 vaccinations. Main Text Several factors have been associated with both seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccine hesitancy amongst BAME groups. One of the most prevalent barriers in both types of immunisation programmes is the mistrust of medical organisations. This is often a multi-faceted issue, with previous negative healthcare discrimination, and historical unethical practices contributing towards this scepticism. This mistrust, however, is predominantly aimed towards healthcare systems, as opposed to individual physicians. In fact, physician endorsement is often a strong driver to vaccination, with Black patients who receive this support 8 times more likely to receive seasonal influenza vaccination. On the other hand, with H1N1 pandemic influenza vaccination, social norms or community influence, was an important determinant. In both seasonal and pandemic immunisation programmes, a significant amount of concern regarding side-effects, including misinformation, was reported amongst BAME groups. Conclusions The use of community-based approaches, with local advocacy, has the potential to counteract misinformation, and concerns regarding side-effects. Moreover, using consistent physician endorsement not only in media campaigns but also through messaging would potentially help to address longstanding healthcare mistrust amongst minority ethnic groups. Close attention regarding how the vaccination programme, and the health policies introduced as a consequence, affect BAME communities in order to prevent widening inequalities in the future.