More people from black and Asian backgrounds, as well as over-65s, are being urged to volunteer to help ensure potential coronavirus vaccines work for everyone.
Researchers say 270,000 people across the UK have signed up for vaccine studies but thousands more are needed, in particular from groups more vulnerable to Covid.
Just 7% of those who have signed up to NHS registers so far are from minority ethnic groups – half the proportion in the overall population. Of those who have signed up, 11,000 are Asian and 1,200 are black. More people aged over the age of 65 or with chronic diseases are also needed.
Kate Bingham, the chair of the government’s vaccine taskforce, said: “Researchers need data from different communities and different people to improve understanding of the vaccines. The only way to get this is through large clinical trials.
“We want to ensure the data we get actually represents the different people from different backgrounds in the UK. This includes people who are over 65, frontline healthcare workers, or have existing health conditions, and we need people from the communities which have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, from black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds.”
Depending on their particular ethnicity, people from BAME communities have a risk of death from coronavirus between 10% and 100% higher than that of white Britons, according to Public Health England. Those of Bangladeshi heritage are at greatest risk, and the Office for National Statistics has calculated that black people in England and Wales are 1.9 times more likely to die of Covid than their white counterparts, after other factors are taken into account.
Researchers in the UK are currently looking at six different potential Covid-19 vaccines, each of which urgently requires thousands of diverse volunteers to help speed up development.
The equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch, said she was volunteering for vaccine trials being conducted by the US biotechnology company Novavax at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital trust in London, and she urged others to sign up to the NHS vaccine registry, the database created to help populate clinical studies.
“We have to ensure every community trusts a future vaccine to be safe and that it works across the entire population,” said Badenoch. “Together we can be part of the national effort to end this pandemic for good.”