New data shows that 7 out of 10 Muslims are either willing to or have already taken the vaccine.
The UK has now reached a pivotal point in the COVID-19 pandemic: the distribution of the vaccine(s). Indisputably, this is a great victory. However, with every achievement there arises natural fears and concerns; the case is no different here.
Recent news has highlighted a reluctance to receive vaccination amongst ethnic minorities in the UK. A report from the Royal Society for Public Health UK (RPSH) found that people of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds were over 20% less likely to want to take the vaccine compared to their White counterparts.
Furthermore, SAGE has reported a much higher figure highlighting that 72% of Black and 42% of Pakistani/Bangladeshi people are hesitant in taking the vaccine. However, with both of these studies having been conducted at the end of 2020, and with a high proportion of White participants compared to ethnic minorities (the SAGE report had an 87% White sample with just a 2% Pakistani/Bangladeshi sample), urgent insights into the Muslim community are needed in order to truly understand the current views.
With the Muslim population being predominantly made up of these BAME groups, it is crucial we gain an insight into the community’s feelings about the vaccines. The outcome of our survey provides an updated understanding around the willingness of taking the COVID-19 vaccine amongst these groups.
We surveyed 1,026 Muslims to ask whether they would take any variation of the COVID-19 vaccine. Our sample included both ages 16+ and a variety of ethnicities to ensure that we gain an understanding of all groups.
What we found
It turns out that 56% of the 1,026 participants were willing to take the vaccine, with 15% having already taken it, 16% remaining unsure, and finally 13% being reluctant. Plainly, in relation to the Royal Society for Public Health (RPSH) survey published in December, this is a huge shift in a positive direction.
Our data outlines a much less strong resistance to vaccination amongst the Muslim population than has previously been suggested. Rather, there is evidence to show ethnic minorities are generally more willing to than not.
Notably, in terms of age we found rejection concentrated within the 28-45 age bracket. 35% of people aged between 28 and 45 were either unsure or unwilling to take the vaccine. This figure is 27% for those aged 16-27, and only 17% for our older sample of 46-64. This could possibly be due to the older demographic having already been vaccinated but does highlight concerns from younger participants that need to be cleared up. In terms of ethnicity splits, the highest level of reluctance came from Black Muslims, of which 42% chose ‘no’ or ‘not sure’. For the other ethnicities, we recorded the following percentages that selected ‘no’ or ‘not sure’: 34% Indian, 30% Pakistani, 22% Bangladeshi and 20% Arab.
Why are people saying no?
Our results found that the primary reason our participants were apprehensive about the vaccine stemmed from fears over potential side effects (66%). What is important to note is that this is not simply a concern raised by those within Muslim communities, but a general concern which is shared with many. The second most reoccurring concern (51%) was the fear over how quickly the vaccine has been produced – again, a concern that has not sprouted singly from Muslim communities. Answers then varied from some participants believing they do not need the vaccine, others not trusting the government, whilst a small proportion were concerned that the vaccine itself might cause COVID-19 and the Islamic validity of it.
There is still work to be done
Although we have seen a massive uptrend in Muslim community willingness to take the vaccine, clearly more work is still to be done. As the vaccine rollout reached the 15 million goal on the 14th of February, an assessment on figures from GPonline found that only 7.8% of vaccines have been distributed to ethnic minority communities.
The Muslim community have already acknowledged this issue and are attempting to address it through undertaking a unified and local response. Efforts from Islamic institutions, such as East London Mosque, have set up pop-up vaccination clinics, run by local General Practitioners to encourage as many eligible local residents to take the vaccine.
The vital work from British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA) cannot also be undermined. BIMA has worked relentlessly at educating the Muslim community with reliable and thoroughly researched data to help break down concerns and facilitate better understanding.
Interesting to note, there has also been a recent online surge of Muslim doctors and GPs producing videos in popular languages such as Somali, Urdu, Bangla and Punjabi to educate and tackle vaccine fake news. Dr Nighat Arif has been posting regular videos on popular social media app TikTok and has since attracted 100,000 + views.
All of these efforts have had a tangible impact as shown in our findings.
It is more crucial than ever that Muslim communities are at the forefront of these initiatives and being vaccinated as the threat this virus poses is clear in the mortality rates published by the University of Manchester. They found that it is almost twice as likely for ethnic minority groups to die from COVID-19 than their White counterparts. It is now a case of reaching as many people as possible and ensuring all members of our community are willing to take the vaccine. There is undoubtedly still work to be done in order to dampen these alarming figures, work that needs to be driven by each individual within the community at educating and supporting the reality of the vaccine.
Muslim Census is available for comment on this study. Please contact us here.
This piece has been written by Adiba Borsha and edited by Thamsia Salam. Responses were collected during the dates 5th-10th February 2021 via an online survey.