Cultural barriers to vaccinations

GP Mohammad AliStory by Mohammad Ali, GP.

For most people COVID-19 is either mild or has no symptoms. However, significant numbers will end up with severe disease, while others develop critical illness or risk Long Covid symptoms. The aim of vaccination is to protect those at most risk from serious illness or death from COVID-19. So far there are currently 3 vaccines approved in the UK.

There are several risk factors linked to increased risk of death from Covid-19. These include age and co-morbidities such as diabetes and severe asthma. People of African and Asian origin, minority groups and healthcare workers have increased risk. Yet despite this, vaccination uptake seems to be an issue in certain communities.

Like most cities in England, Sheffield has a diverse population, in some of which there seems to be a reluctance to vaccination. There are many factors contributing to this reduced uptake:

  • A huge amount of misinformation on social media is affecting confidence in the vaccination programme.
  • The government has provided lots of information online, but this can be overwhelming, for a lay person. Often such information is presented separately on each vaccination.
  • The authorities and pharmaceutical giants did not engage well with certain communities at the onset, to dispel any mistrust.
  • Political interference and nationalism in vaccination has not helped.
  • I know from clinical experience that deprivation can play a significant barrier to seeking medical help.
  • As a Muslim GP, one of the issues faced by my community is the lack of halal certification either by the government or the pharmaceutical companies, though these vaccines are said to be free from animal products.