Disparity in Covid vaccine uptake rates between rich and poor areas in England raises ‘questions of wider public health’

Monday, 15th March 2021, 4:14 pm
Updated Monday, 15th March 2021, 4:15 pm
New research has found a 25 percentage disparity between Covid vaccination uptake rates in richer and poorer areas in England located just miles apart (Photo: JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

New research has found a 25 percentage disparity between Covid vaccination uptake rates in richer and poorer areas in England located just miles apart.

Analysis carried out by The Guardian looked at vaccination rates in areas with an average of 8,000 people each, which is known as middle layer super output areas (MSOAs).

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The analysis then ranked each of these areas from most-deprived to least-deprived, dividing them into thirds.

The research examined the differences in coronavirus vaccine rollouts between councils which contain areas in the richest and poorest thirds.

The study found that the vaccine gap was the largest in Southwark, south London.

In Herne Hill and Dulwich Park, among the least-deprived third of areas nationally, and the borough’s richest, 95 per cent of those aged 60 or older had received a vaccine by 7 March.

However, this fell to 70 per cent of people in areas of Southwark that are classed among the most deprived in England.

There were even greater differences among individual areas, according to the research, with less than 70 per cent of those living in some of the borough’s poorest parts – including Burgess Park, Peckham North and Peckham North West – having had been vaccinated by the same date.

These three areas of London have black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) populations ranging between 64 per cent and 74 per cent, which is in contrast to Herne Hill and Dulwich Park, which is 19 per cent BAME.

Outside of London, in Charnwood in Leicestershire, vaccination rates stood at 74 per cent in Loughborough Lemyngton and Hastings.

This is the only part of that council which is among the most deprived third of areas nationally. The equivalent uptake across the wealthiest parts of the council was found to be 93 per cent.

Peterborough and Preston showed similarly large gaps, according to the analysis.

‘We need a high uptake across all communities’

Experts have said that the wide disparities shown by the analysis reflected the inequalities of race and poverty.

Mehrunisha Suleman, a senior research fellow with the Health Foundation think tank, told the Guardian that the Covid vaccine uptake disparity raised “questions of wider public health” due to vaccination programmes relying on “a ballpark of 90-95 per cent across a population to lead to the eradication of a virus like Covid-19”.

Ms Suleman added: “That’s why we need a high uptake across all communities".

Dr Mohammad Razai, academic clinical fellow in primary care at St George’s University, said the Government’s current rollout strategy of prioritising Covid vaccines based on age as “ineffective”.

Dr Razai told the Guardian: “This is an ineffective allocation strategy that will certainly exacerbate not just health inequalities but very likely increase the risk of death and the risk of infection, hospitalisation and outbreaks in these minority groups.

“If you have these very high risk people in public facing [jobs] and in multi-generational households, the risk of spreading the infection is very high, particularly in the context of the new variant B117, which is 70 per cent more transmissible and 30 per cent more deadly.

“When these factors combine, the whole vaccination strategy at the local level will unravel, because you need to have a certain immunity level within the population to be able to safely say the vaccination strategy will be effective.”