English vaccine take-up lower in minority groups, ONS says

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COVID-19 vaccinations in Blackburn

LONDON (Reuters) - The take-up of COVID-19 vaccines was much lower among minority groups in the first three months of rollout in England, the Office for National Statistics said on Monday, amid concern the benefits of the programme are being unevenly felt.

Britain's vaccine rollout is the fourth fastest in the world, with more than 30 million having received a first dose, a success which Prime Minister Boris Johnson is using to cautiously reopen society and the economy.

However, there is concern that the rollout is unevenly distributed, and fewer numbers in some Black and south Asian groups, which have suffered higher death rates, have received a COVID-19 shot.

"Vaccination rates are markedly lower amongst certain groups, in particular amongst people identifying as Black African and Black Caribbean, those identifying as Muslim, and disabled people," ONS statistician Ben Humberstone said.

From Dec. 8 to March 11, 90.2% of people aged 70 years and older in England had received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

But among people identifying as Black African and Black Caribbean, vaccination rates were just 58.8% and 68.7% respectively, with take-up by people of Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds below 75%.

Take-up also varied by religion, with a vaccination rate of 72.3% for Muslim people.

Celebrities and officials have encouraged minorities to accept the shots amid concern that vaccine hesitancy and misinformation was affecting take-up rates.

Polls have indicated that Black, Asian and other minority groups in Britain have more concerns about the vaccine's reliability, while government advisers believe socioeconomic factors raise these groups' risk of dying from COVID-19.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Michael Holden)