The NHS has made good progress in tackling coronavirus vaccine hesitancy but there is “still more to do”, according to England’s top GP.
Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS England’s medical director of primary care, said vaccine uptake had increased from 75% to 86% in Asian communities, and from 55% to 68% in black communities.
The senior official, who is a working GP in south-east London, acknowledged that efforts were “not quite tackling all of the hesitancy” as she renewed calls for people to take up the offer of a jab.
She told a Downing Street press conference: “We know that some people are still anxious about coming forward for their vaccine.
“But tackling vaccine hesitancy, building vaccine confidence, has been at the heart of our programme since the very beginning and it is something that I am personally passionate about.
“We continue to close the gap, with more people from ethnic minority backgrounds coming forward, and uptake is increasing faster in black African and Pakistani communities than in white backgrounds now.
“Between mid-March and mid-June, uptake in black and Asian communities has continued to rise, increasing from 75% to 86% in Asian communities, and jumping from 55% to 68% in black communities.”
Dr Kanani said that NHS staff and volunteers would be “gearing up” for a weekend of walk-in clinics to ensure the vaccine was getting to hard-to-reach communities.
She added: “There is still more to do, but our message from the NHS is clear: it is never too late to come forward and take up your vaccine.
“Your vaccine has a name on it, it is for you, and it is an evergreen offer. So, as soon as you feel able, come forward and we will vaccinate you.”
She appealed to tech companies to help combat the spread of disinformation about coronavirus vaccines on social media.
“It is incredibly unfair that anti-vaxxers and others try and promote this awful information because it is risking your life, the life of your community and the safety of our science as well,” the GP added.
“I utterly condemn that.”
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told the press conference that there will be a London summit in a bid to scale up ideas that have worked in improving the jab take-up rate.
He said: “As we look to tackle and take on those final steps, those hard yards on the road to recovery, we need to make sure as many people are protected as possible.
“So we are intensifying, doubling down our efforts to get more people to come forward and we are seeing real results in places like Bolton and of course in the North West and elsewhere.
“We’re honing in on areas where uptake is lower.”