NHS needs thousands of British Asians to join Covid-19 vaccine trials

NHS needs thousands of British Asians to join Covid-19 vaccine trials

  • Diversity of first phase uptake branded ‘disappointing’ as just 3% are from Asian backgrounds

The NHS is launching a fresh attempt to recruit tens of thousands of volunteers from British Asian communities to its coronavirus vaccine trials following a “disappointing” uptake in the first phase.

The government’s vaccines taskforce announced on Monday that more than 112,000 people had signed up for trials which could begin as soon as next month.

However, only 3% of the volunteers were from British Asian backgrounds, said Dr Dinesh Saralaya, one of the directors of the recruitment programme, describing the low uptake as “very worrying”.

Saralaya, a consultant respiratory physician, said the researchers needed to do more to reach communities who may not speak English as a first language or watch mainstream television news and may be unaware of the vaccine trials.

“It’s very important that we dispel the myths in the Asian community that vaccines are going to be harmful,” said Saralaya, who runs a National Institute for Health Research patient recruitment centre in Bradford.

“It’s perfectly safe. They are very, very closely monitored and there are very strict protocols. The standard of care is in fact better than what you would receive outside of a trial [and] the side effects are very, very minimal.”

A targeted recruitment programme broadcast in Urdu, Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali and Polish is to be launched, while respected community leaders will be used to spread to message to harder-to-reach neighbourhoods.