Black and Asian people have died disproportionately from coronavirus because of disastrous Tory policies and systematic racism. And now it’s emerged that NHS England had not even been counting how many were being vaccinated.
It’s a scandalous oversight some seven weeks into the vaccine rollout.
The Pinnacle system used by GPs and mass vaccination sites always recorded data on age. But pressure from heath workers and anti-racist campaigners has forced it to record ethnicity from Thursday.
Jabeer Butt is chief executive of the Race Equality Foundation. He said the charity’s research shows, “Black, Asian and minority ethnic over 80s account for only around 3 percent of the priority group.
"There has been much comment that BAME groups are not taking up the Covid-19 vaccine, but how many have actually been offered it?”
The change comes after high profile public information campaigns have implored black and Asian people to take the vaccine if offered. These assumptions about the rates of vaccine hesitancy are pushed by the government even though it has failed to collect the necessary data.
Dr Jonty Heaversedge is chair of the South East London Clinical Commissioning Group, which started collecting its own data on how the jab was being distributed.
“We need very clear information about who has received the vaccination, where and when,” he said.
“There is a national digital platform that captures information about vaccination, and one of the things we were very clear about in south east London was that we needed details about people’s ethnicity to be captured as part of that.”
It’s hardly surprising that the Tories don’t think it’s important to work out how black people are accessing healthcare. They’ve been put in danger ever since the pandemic engulfed Britain in March last year.
A report in October 2020 carried out for the Institute for Public Policy Research and the Runnymede Trust showed the stark reality of disproportionate deaths. It showed there would have been 58,000 extra deaths during the first wave if white people faced the same risk factors as black people.
And research undertaken by the mayor of London’s office shows that black Londoners faced almost twice the risk of dying from Covid-19 compared to white Londoners. The entire vaccinate rollout has been already mired by crisis and delays.
Although they claim to be on track to vaccinate all four top priority groups by mid-February, some of the most vulnerable are still waiting for their first injection.
Tory vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi said, “Supplies are tight, they continue to be, these are new manufacturing processes.
“It’s lumpy and bumpy, it gets better and stabilises and improves going forward.”
The Tories’ “lumpy and bumpy” vaccine rollout will likely see millions of second doses extended beyond the 21-day period they are advised for. But the long-term medical implications of this delay are unknown.
It’s structural racism that’s behind the high rates of Covid-19 deaths among black and Asian people. And it’s this racism, coupled with contempt for ordinary people, that drives the Tories’ policies now.