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UKHSA encourages eligible people from ethnic minority groups to book their flu and COVID-19 vaccines

  • Dec 8, 2023
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UKHSA encourages eligible people from ethnic minority groups to book their flu and COVID-19 vaccines


UKHSA is strongly encouraging eligible people from ethnic minority groups, particularly people from the Pakistani and black Caribbean ethnic groups and individuals living in more deprived areas, to book their flu and COVID-19 vaccines. This will protect them and their families against the heightened risks of these infections during winter.

Data from UKHSA‘s report on inequalities in emergency hospital admission rates for influenza and COVID-19 in England, published yesterday, shows that for both COVID-19 and influenza, emergency hospital admission rates were higher for people living in the most deprived areas when compared to people living in the least deprived areas. For influenza, there were also persistent differences in emergency hospital admission rates between ethnic groups.

In winter 2022 to 2023, for influenza, the Pakistani ethnic group had emergency hospital admissions rates which were on average 2.7 times higher than the white ethnic group. The black, African, Caribbean, or black British ethnic groups had emergency hospital admission rates for influenza which were on average 1.6 times higher than the white ethnic group.

Influenza admission rates were 2.6 times higher and COVID-19 admission rates 2.1 times higher for individuals living in more deprived areas compared to the least deprived.

This report describes inequalities in emergency hospital admission rates. It does not account for underlying factors that may drive differences between groups, therefore, it doesn’t aim to explain why these inequalities exist. From previous research, we know that the underlying causes of health inequalities are complex, with multiple and overlapping factors. This includes the impact of existing social and economic inequalities, coverage of healthcare interventions, such as vaccination, and pre-existing health conditions.

This analysis lays the groundwork for further investigation. There is a need for closer examination into the contribution of underlying reasons for these risks over winter. Further work is also needed on the delivery of interventions, such as vaccination, to alleviate the impact of these infections.

Additionally, this analysis provides insight for local healthcare systems, including Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) and Directors of Public Health, to consider the relevance of these national findings at the local level.

Together, these findings underscore the urgent need to improve vaccine coverage across ethnic groups and levels of deprivation to reduce the risks associated with both influenza and COVID-19.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Director of Immunisation at UKHSA said:

Taking up both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines provides the best protection against the virus this winter.

We continue to encourage eligible individuals and groups, especially those from ethnic minority backgrounds, to get vaccinated against these preventable diseases.

For the week ending 26 November 2023, although 75.2% of those aged 65 years and over in England had received their flu vaccine, just over a third of those in clinical risk groups; and less than a third of pregnant women had been vaccinated. Over two-thirds of those aged 65 years and over have been vaccinated against COVID-19 during the autumn campaign.

It’s important to get vaccinated before flu starts to circulate, so we strongly urge everyone who is eligible to come forward for vaccination as soon as possible.”

Dr Shona Arora, Director of Health Equity and Clinical Governance at UKHSA said:

The disparities we have observed, with higher hospital admission rates among Pakistani and black, African, Caribbean, or black British ethnic groups and individuals living in more deprived areas, are concerning.

If you have been invited to do so, please do book your flu and COVID-19 vaccinations through the NHS website, the NHS App, or by dialling 119.

Both vaccines really can help to protect you and your family from serious illness.”

Dr Salman Waqar, GP and President of the British Islamic Medical Association, said:

Our faith encourages us to consider the implications of our actions on the people around us. That is why we encourage eligible Muslim children, vulnerable adults, and those over the age of 65 not to delay their decision to get vaccinated for free against COVID-19 and seasonal flu. Please take up this offer to reduce your chances of hospitalisation this winter.

We know many people in our community have religious concerns about the porcine content of the children’s nasal flu spray, but they should know that the flu injection for both children and adults is free of this and can be requested.”

Vaccination is a key preventative intervention for flu and COVID-19. Previously published UKHSA vaccine uptake data shows disparities in influenza and COVID-19 vaccine coverage. Among individuals aged 65 years and over, only 55% of the Pakistani ethnic group and 49% of the black Caribbean ethnic group received the influenza vaccine in winter 2022 to 2023, compared to 84% of the white British group.

Both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines can be given at the same time. To ensure the highest level of protection, it is important to receive both vaccines as soon as possible to be protected through winter. This means you are protected when infections circulate more widely.

You can book your COVID-19 and flu vaccination appointment online, by downloading the NHS app or by calling 119 if you cannot get online. You can also book your flu vaccine by finding a local pharmacy or through your GP practice.

With robust UK and global studies supporting the very good safety profile and advantages of both COVID-19 and flu vaccines, ethnic minority groups should not delay.


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