RCGP asks Health Secretary to explain rationale for not including BAME patients in Covid-19 vaccination priority list

Publication date: 02 December 2020

The Royal College of GPs is calling on Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, for a more detailed rationale for not including people from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities on the initial prioritisation list for a Covid-19 vaccination.

The initial list, devised by the Joint Committee on Vaccinations Immunisations (JCVI), does not specifically include people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, despite data showing that death rates from Covid-19 are amongst the highest in patients from these groups. The list currently takes an age-based approach to prioritisation, also specifically including care home residents and staff, health and social care workers, and high and moderate-risk adults – for example, those with underlying health conditions.

In a letter to the Health Secretary, RCGP Chair Professor Martin Marshall writes: “Throughout the pandemic the RCGP has raised significant concerns about the extent to which GPs, their practice staff, and patients from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are disproportionately affected by Covid-19…yet we note that they are not included on the initial JCVI prioritisation list ahead of roll-out of the vaccines. 

“It is important that GPs and their patients are aware of the rationale for the decisions made, particularly as data clearly indicates that patients from ethnic minority backgrounds are more susceptible to contracting and dying from the virus.  While some of this may be due to the higher prevalence of pre-existing conditions within the BAME communities, a recent study by the Office of National Statistics suggested that is not sufficient to explain the disparity in mortality rates from Covid-19, and emphasises the importance of demographic and socio-economic factors, such as place of residence and occupational exposure.”

The letter recognises the need to keep the criteria ‘as simple as possible’, and that there may be ‘legitimate reasons’ why it is not possible to reflect ethnicity in the list. However, the College is also asking whether a risk score that accounts for ethnicity, geographical socio-economic indicators, and other related factors has been considered by government to ensure that this vaccination strategy is ‘appropriate for the entire population’ and those most vulnerable are prioritised.

Continuing his letter, Prof Marshall writes: “We would therefore like to ask for clarification of the rationale for people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities not being included on the initial JCVI prioritisation list and to be able to communicate this clearly to our members. We would additionally like to know whether using a risk score that accounts for ethnicity, geographical socio-economic indicators, and other related factors has been considered.

“I do appreciate the complexities and difficulties of the decisions that are having to be taken and can assure you of the support of the RCGP and the profession in the national effort to vaccinate the population against Covid-19.”

Read the letter from RCGP

Further Information

RCGP Press office – 020 3188 7633/7494/7574

Out of hours: 0203 188 7659 

press@rcgp.org.uk

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

Letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock

Rt. Hon Matt Hancock MP
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Department of Health and Social Care
39 Victoria Street
London
SW1H 0EU

30 November 2020

Dear Secretary of State

RE – JCVI prioritisation list, Covid-19 vaccine

Following the encouraging news that several Covid-19 vaccines have been found to be effective, I am writing to you regarding the prioritisation of patients from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities as part of the Covid-19 vaccine roll out.

General practice stands ready to support the efforts of the Government and the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations) and to play a key role in ensuring the forthcoming vaccination programme is safely, effectively and efficiently delivered. However, it is important that we understand the rationale for why the vaccine is being given initially to some groups rather than others.

Throughout the pandemic the RCGP has raised significant concerns about the extent to which GPs, their practice staff, and patients from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are disproportionately affected by Covid-19. As you are aware, data shows that death rates from Covid-19 are amongst the highest in patients from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities yet we note that they are not included on the initial JCVI prioritisation list ahead of roll-out of the vaccines.

We appreciate it is important to keep the prioritisation criteria as simple as possible and there may be legitimate reasons, such as data availability, why it is not possible to reflect ethnicity in the current list. We also recognise the practical difficulties faced, namely the need to roll out a vaccination programme as quickly as possible and the importance of simplicity when doing so.

However, it is important that GPs and their patients are aware of the rationale for the decisions made, particularly as data clearly indicates that patients from ethnic minority backgrounds are more susceptible to contracting and dying from the virus. While some of this may be due to the higher prevalence of pre-existing conditions within the BAME communities, a recent study by the Office of

National Statistics suggested that is not sufficient to explain the disparity in mortality rates from Covid-19, and emphasises the importance of demographic and socio-economic factors, such as place of residence and occupational exposure.

We would therefore like to ask for clarification of the rationale for people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities not being included on the initial JCVI prioritisation list and to be able to communicate this clearly to our members. We would additionally like to know whether using a risk score that accounts for ethnicity, geographical socio-economic indicators, and other related factors has been considered.

I would be happy to meet with you or with colleagues from the JCVI to discuss further. I do appreciate the complexities and difficulties of the decisions that are having to be taken and can assure you of the support of the RCGP and the profession in the national effort to vaccinate the population against Covid-19.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of Council RCGP

Cc: Professor Andrew Pollard, Chair, Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer
Professor Wei-Shen Lim, Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations

The item has been added to your basket.

Continue shopping

Go to basket

This item is out of stock.

Continue shopping

The item is out of stock.

Yes Continue shopping

An error occurred adding your item to the basket:

Continue shopping