Lower Vaccination Coverage Raises Risk of Dying with COVID for Some Ethnic Groups

Peter Russell

January 26, 2022

Official figures have confirmed for the first time that lower uptake of a COVID-19 vaccine in some ethnic minority groups in England contributed to a higher risk of mortality from COVID.

Since the vaccination programme began, people from most ethnic minority groups had a higher risk of death involving COVID compared with the White British population, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

While vaccination status was an important element, socio-economic status, population density, and comorbidities also affected mortality risk, the analysis found.

The ONS data covered the period between December 8, 2020, around the time that the vaccination programme began, and December 1, 2021.

Second Wave of the Pandemic

It found that during the latter part of the second wave of the pandemic, in the 6 months until June 12, 2021, males from all ethnic minority groups, other than those identifying as Chinese, were at higher risk of mortality from COVID compared with their White British counterparts.

Females from all ethnic minority groups other than those from Chinese and 'White other' ethnic groups were also at greater risk.

Increased mortality risk was five times greater for males, and four and a half times higher for females, in the Bangladeshi community when compared with the White British population.

People with a Pakistani heritage (3.1 for males, 2.6 for females), and those identifying as Black African (2.4 for males, 1.7 for females), also had a higher risk of mortality compared with the White British group.

Third Wave

During the third wave of the pandemic, from mid-June last year, the risk of mortality involving COVID remained highest among the Bangladeshi community

During those 6 months, it remained higher for all ethnic minority groups, except for Chinese people, men from the 'Mixed' group, and women identifying as 'White other'.

People from Black Caribbean and Black African ethnic groups were at higher risk of dying from COVID than White British people after adjusting for age. That higher risk persisted after statisticians adjusted for demographic, socio-economic factors, and pre-existing health conditions.

However, after they took account of vaccination status, there was no evidence to suggest the risk of mortality from COVID-19 was greater in the Black Caribbean and Black African ethnic groups than the White British group.

Differences in vaccination coverage between these two ethnic minority groups and the White British population could "explain a large part of the excess risk", the ONS said.

Effect of Lower Vaccine Uptake

Vahé Nafilyan, a senior statistician at the ONS, commented: "Today's analysis shows that since the vaccination programme began, the risk of death from COVID-19 has continued to be higher in most ethnic minority groups than in the White British ethnic group.

"As already highlighted in our analyses of earlier periods, these differences in mortality are largely explained by socio-demographic and economic factors and health.

"For the first time, we show that the lower vaccination coverage in some ethnic groups also contributes to the elevated risk of COVID-19 death, particularly in the Black African and Black Caribbean groups."

Estimates for the third wave are provisional, as the third wave may extend beyond the study period, the ONS said.

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