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5 March 2021updated 28 Aug 2021 9:05pm

England’s poorest areas have lower levels of vaccine uptake

The vaccine roll-out appears to be happening more slowly in the areas that need it most.

By Michael Goodier

The most deprived neighbourhoods in England, which have recorded the highest consistent levels of Covid-19 cases, also have the lowest rates of vaccine uptake, data shows.

The New Statesman’s analysis of hyper-local figures from Public Health England reveals a clear relationship between an area’s level of deprivation and it having consistently high rates of Covid-19 throughout the pandemic.

 

After the first wave of the pandemic, case rates in neighbourhoods in Leicester, Bradford and Manchester never really fell to levels seen in the rest of the country during the easing of restrictions last summer.

High vaccine uptake in these more stubborn repositories of Covid-19 could be crucial to reducing the number of cases, but figures currently suggest people in poorer areas are also less likely to have been vaccinated.

This holds among all age groups that are currently being offered the vaccine.

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Why are poorer areas seeing slower uptake of vaccines? We don’t know, but studies have shown that vaccine coverage is lower among ethnic minorities, who often live in more deprived neighbourhoods.

The figures may reflect vaccine hesitancy among certain minorities or other factors, such as lower levels of GP registration in some demographic groups making it harder to reach them for vaccination – or a combination of both.

You can examine how many people have had the vaccine in your neighbourhood, and how that compares to the rest of your town, and to England as a whole, using our local Covid-19 tracker here.

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[see also: Why are millions of doses of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines lying unused in EU countries?]

The New Statesman’s analysis compared the number of weeks neighbourhoods had more than 40 Covid cases per 100,000 people to their levels of deprivation and vaccine take-up.

Both low take-up and high case numbers were linked to deprivation. And although a direct relationship between Covid-19 rates and vaccine uptake was less clear, the analysis suggests fewer people in areas that have had consistently high Covid-19 rates are getting vaccinated.

 

As for why more deprived areas are likelier to have persistently high Covid-19 rates, one theory relates to type of employment. The figures from the last census, in 2011, are now dated, but may still provide some indication of an area’s job mix.

They show that neighbourhoods with consistently high Covid rates are more likely to have a larger percentage of employees in so-called elementary occupations, which consist of routine tasks that are difficult or impossible to do remotely, as well as in process plant and machinery, and customer service.

 

These areas also had a lower percentage of people in professional occupations, which are more likely to enable someone to work from home. Figures from early on in the pandemic showed that people were moving about more in areas of deprivation – again, possibly because they still had to go into work.

Of course, the rate of Covid-19 in an area is determined by a complicated and wide range of factors, such as population density as well as local rates of testing, rather than just the jobs people do. But if people are compelled to leave home for work, that will increase both their own risk and that of their community.

Increasing vaccination rates is therefore imperative. While not everyone in an area needs get vaccinated for there to be a positive effect on local cases, the more that do, the greater the improvement. And while it’s true that some of these areas may have relatively high levels of immunity from people having caught Covid already, getting vaccinated is still beneficial as it may increase protection against different variants of the virus and reduce the risk of transmission.

In short, the vaccine roll-out is still crucial. And what these figures show is that areas that may be most in need of vaccination to lower persistently high case rates are also currently among the least likely to get it.