Call to help tackle ‘vaccine hesitancy’ among minorities

Equalities minister writes to community leaders amid concerns that misinformation about the jab could spread.

Call to help tackle ‘vaccine hesitancy’ among minorities Javier Zayas Photography via Getty Images
Concerns over 'vaccine hesitancy' among ethnic minority groups.

Community leaders are being asked to help tackle “vaccine hesitancy” among ethnic minority groups in Scotland, a minister has said, amid concerns that misinformation about the jab could spread.

It came as an equalities group called on the Scottish Government to ensure that translated public health information reaches older people in minority communities who may have language or literacy issues.

The Edinburgh and Lothian Regional Equality Council (Elrec) said older South Asian people often rely on family networks for information and may encounter “foreign messages” spreading false claims.

Equalities Minister Chistina McKelvie said there is an overlap between the groups who are most hesitant about the vaccine and those most affected by Covid-19.

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Elrec chairman Foysol Choudhury said: “There hasn’t been official translated information made available to minority groups, specifically to those with language and literacy issues which is quite prevalent amongst the older BAME (blame and minority ethnic) generations.

“People not being able to understand something is daunting as it is but if it relates to their health and wellbeing then it’s an actual risk to them.

“Many older South Asians living in Edinburgh and Lothians rely on friends and family to relay information to them, and this doesn’t always happen so they are left to rely on foreign messages which may not always be correct.

“Misinformation in these circumstances can be just as deadly as the virus. People need to know factual information about every aspect of the pandemic.”

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He continued: “I call on the Scottish Government to ensure the facts regarding the vaccine are communicated to the BAME community in a way that reassures them.”

McKelvie said she has written to community leaders “asking for their help in developing and delivering targeted messages to communities, to address specific barriers they may have to taking up the vaccination”.

“We are keen to explore how local community leaders, or people who are visible and well known in those communities, can help encourage people to take up the vaccine, and that’s why we’ve written to over 100 representative organisations including Elrec, providing ideas and support to make that happen,” she said.

“We also know that there is a significant overlap between the groups disproportionately affected by Covid-19 – which include minority ethnic people – and those most likely to be vaccine hesitant.”

She said an expert group had been set up earlier in the pandemic to advise the Government on how to meet the needs of minority communities.