UK Black and South Asian groups lagging behind white people in COVID-19 vaccinations

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LONDON (Reuters) - Only 55% of Black people in England aged between 70 to 79 had been vaccinated against COVID-19 by Feb. 11, compared to 86% of white people in this age group, according to early research on England's coronavirus vaccination programme.

Among people from South Asian backgrounds the figure stood at 73 percent, according to a study by OpenSafely, run by the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

These ethnic groups have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 with a disproportionate number of deaths. Government advisers have said that factors such as living circumstances and profession are driving the increased risk.

Public health officials are calling for a more concerted campaign to address vaccine hesitancy as recent polls in Britain have shown that Black, Asian and other minority groups are less open to getting the vaccine than white people because they worry about the vaccine's reliability. Britain's drug regulator has said the vaccines are safe.

The government is banking on the biggest and swiftest global vaccine rollout in its history as the escape route from a series of national lockdowns and their crippling economic impact.

Britain, which was the first Western country to begin mass vaccinations in December, has vaccinated 15.94 million people with a first dose and 558,577 with a second dose, the fastest rollout per capita of any large country.

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)