Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Supporting vaccine uptake in BAME communities

by Farzana Mohammed, Learning facilitator at Health Education and Improvement Wales, member of Muslim Doctors Cymru 

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has given hope to many, in a time which has been challenging for all of us. But growing evidence of a lack of vaccine uptake in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities is incredibly alarming. I have seen it very close to home where members of my own family have deep concerns fed by misinformation from friends and online. We all must commit to supporting vaccine uptake more effectively in BAME communities.

The disproportionate impact of the virus on BAME communities in the UK has highlighted the extent of health inequalities within society. It has reaffirmed and starkly demonstrated strong association between ethnicity, race, socio-economic status, and health outcomes.

What can we do to help BAME communities? As health experts and leaders, we have a responsibility to show empathy, compassion and help to inform the public on the important issues relating to their health. Pharmacy is such a diverse profession with many of us coming from different backgrounds and areas, so we’re able to communicate with a range of people. It’s crucial that we use our status as health professionals to connect with people and reiterate to our families, patients and throughout our communities the importance of getting a COVID-19 vaccine when offered.

A key challenge is reaching a wider audience, people like the older members of our society who may not speak English as a first language or use social media. That is where we, as pharmacists, have an enormous role to play in proactively creating confidence in vaccines approved by the MHRA, which will benefit the health of diverse communities and reduce the impact of this terrible virus.

In January, I joined Muslim doctors Cymru as the first Pharmacist member. The aim of this group, like many others, is to clear any misconceptions around Covid-19 vaccines and to provide access to a wider network of professionals allowing us to spread the message further. By making time for community engagement we can build trust among our communities and this would be a start to raising the number of BAME people taking the vaccine. I urge pharmacists to join groups like this and spread these messages further within their communities.

There are a number of webinars on the group website, including ones from doctors, often GPs, a professional from a non-medical background to moderate and an Imam to answer religious aspects of the questions put forward. So far, webinars are conducted in Urdu, Arabic, Somali, Bengali and English. I am currently organising a webinar with the UKBPA to reach the black and Afro-Caribbean communities because our group wishes to be as diverse and inclusive as possible. We want to work with all communities so I encourage you to get in touch.

You can help us by talking to your local communities and supporting us to spread our work.

Read our pharmacy guide on COVID-19 vaccinations so that you can assure members of the public about the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines.

Please contact Farzana Mohammed by email: [email protected] with suggestions to improve vaccine uptake and concerns from BAME communities. She is part of a group called Muslim Doctors Cymru, who are trying to dispel some of the myths circling on the internet.