A UK government-initiated report finds that higher rates of deaths among ethnic minority deaths most likely occur due to low vaccination rates and social circumstances.
A government-commissioned report has shown that Black people and members of other racial and ethnic minorities in Britain are still dying from the coronavirus at higher rates than white residents.
The research released on Friday found that vaccination has sharply reduced Covid-19 death rates for people of all ethnicities.
But Black and South Asian Britons die at higher rates even though white people are more likely to test positive for the virus.
“In the first two waves, the higher death rate seen in ethnic minorities was primarily due to their higher risk of infection compared to whites – particularly in older age groups,” said Dr Raghib Ali, the British government’s independent adviser on Covid-19 and ethnicity.
In recent months, Ali said, “we are seeing lower infection rates in ethnic minorities than in white people, but rates of hospital admissions and deaths are still higher, with the pattern now matching levels of vaccine uptake in higher risk groups.”
Combating vaccine hesitancy
British health officials have launched information campaigns and worked with community groups and religious leaders to combat vaccine hesitancy among ethnic minorities.
Ali said they have had some success, with vaccination rates in older Black African and Pakistani people seeing the biggest increase of any group in the six months before October.
But overall vaccination rates remain highest in white people and lowest in Black groups. About 90 percent of adults in Britain have had at least one vaccine dose, but the figure is under 80 percent among Asian communities and less than two-thirds among people from Black African and Black Caribbean backgrounds.
Ali was appointed by the government after it became clear that some ethnic groups were being hit harder than others by Covid-19.
Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch said the “understanding of how Covid-19 affects different ethnic groups has transformed since the pandemic began.”
“We know now that factors like the job someone does, where they live, and how many people they live with, impacts how susceptible they are to the virus, and it’s imperative that those more at risk get their booster vaccine,” she said.
In this context, research has highlighted multiple factors. Some ethnic groups have higher prevalence of underlying health conditions and are more likely to live in large, multi-generational households.
People from ethnic minorities also hold a big share of frontline jobs, such as taxi and mass transit drivers, that saw high infection rates early in the pandemic.