A new COVID-19 report with over 2,000 respondents has shed light on the willingness of British Indians to take a COVID-19 vaccine and the need for ethnic minorities to be included in research and practice.

The 1928 Institute, a think tank cofounded by Kiran Kaur Manku, Department of Psychiatry, and Dr Nikita Ved, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics (DPAG), is working with the University of Oxford to research and represent the views of British Indians – the UK’s largest ethnic minority group. 

The report includes the following findings about vaccines: 

  • Only 56% of British Indians would take a COVID-19 vaccine when offered, which is significantly lower than the national average of 79%
  • Women are significantly less likely than men to take a vaccine, with 52% of women willing to take the vaccine compared with 63% of men, likely due to their additional reported concerns on fertility.
  • 19% of British Indians feel that other people should have priority in receiving a vaccine, specifically those who are vulnerable and those in low- and middle-income countries.

Dr Nikita Ved said:

‘We are calling for a clear and concerted public health campaign that addresses the vaccine concerns raised by the community, particularly regarding the impact on fertility. We also call for the Government to share their plans on how they will assist low- and middle-income countries in vaccine distribution to assuage reluctance in taking the vaccine.’

The report shows the impact of the pandemic on British Indians is worsened mental health (39%) and physical health (29%), among less access to basic needs and education. However, their research found that the majority of British Indians find physical and mental healthcare inaccessible even before the pandemic, primarily due to a lack of cultural nuance which could be addressed through inclusion in both research and practice.

50% of British Indians face barriers in accessing physical healthcare:

  • Many respondents felt their symptoms are often overlooked and need to be emphasised to their doctor in order to access treatment.
  • British Indians gave examples of their conditions not being diagnosed as most medical textbooks are written about individuals from Caucasian backgrounds and are not always relevant to other ethnic groups.
  • The majority of British Indians adopt or see the benefits in adopting a holistic attitude towards healthcare including yoga, meditation and diet, which is not reflected in the current healthcare system.

76% of British Indians face barriers in accessing mental healthcare:

  • The most prominent barriers include stigma, quality, costs and relevance.
  • Respondents explained they require provisions that better understand. cultural nuances, ie therapists who provide tasks that will not induce further stress.
  • 93% explained that poor awareness of symptoms hinders better mental health outcomes.
  • Almost every male in the focus groups highlighted concerns about suicide regarding themselves or someone close to them.

Kiran Kaur Manku said:

‘COVID-19 has highlighted the impact of health inequalities which urgently needs to be addressed by including ethnic minorities in research and practice. To avoid being further overlooked and misdiagnosed, we need to invest in research to better understand the symptoms of BME communities and redesign both textbooks and training. Research should explore how the NHS can adopt a more holistic attitude towards healthcare that reflects their population. In addition, research on co-created mental healthcare with BME communities is urgently required to provide much needed cultural nuance for practitioners. Critically, more resources are needed on suicide prevention, such as targeted support for ethnic minority men.’

Illustration of a holistic attitude towards healthcare. Credit: Canva. Illustration of a holistic attitude towards healthcare. Credit: Canva.

Illustration of a holistic attitude towards healthcare. Credit: Canva.

The insights from the report on access to healthcare provides a reasoning for the lower uptake of vaccines in ethnic minorities.

Kiran Kaur Manku added:

‘It would be easier to assuage doubts about taking a COVID-19 vaccine if healthcare had previously not neglected the needs of ethnic minorities. COVID-19 vaccine research should include ethnic minorities and pay attention to their concerns. Healthcare researchers and practitioners need to actively include ethnic minorities in their work in order to address the unacceptable healthcare inequalities.’

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