Why has uptake of the vaccine been lower in Reading and Slough than in other parts of Berkshire?

The latest data, released today, shows Reading and Slough are 7-12 per cent behind other areas in Berkshire in terms of the percentage of the population that has received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine.

In Reading and Slough, 25 per cent of people aged 16 and above have received a vaccine, as of the latest data from March 11.

READ MORE: Reading FC footballers join Theresa May's calls to take up the Covid vaccine

In West Berkshire, Wokingham, Bracknell, and Windsor & Maidenhead, between 32 and 37 per cent of people over 16 have received a dose of the vaccine, with the highest uptake in West Berkshire (37 per cent).

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) spoke to David Munday, Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) Public Health Consultant, to find out why.

Reasons behind the differing rates of uptake

According to Mr Munday, this is partly due to age, partly due to the diversity of the towns and some of the data is not completely reliable.

Mr Munday said: “Reading and Slough have significantly younger populations so there are quite a lot fewer people that are over 80.

“That means you need to vaccinate a smaller number of people to get the coverage we are after.

“Reading will have fewer people in each of the first five age bands [80+, 75-79, 70-74, 65-69 and 60-64].”

David Munday

David Munday

The statistics show Reading and Slough have vaccinated less people in each age group, but Mr Munday said not enough of the younger population has yet been offered the vaccine to be sure of what the uptake will be.

The diversity of Reading and Slough has also played a part, he said.

“I think there are higher levels of vaccine hesitancy in some ethnic minority groups and we know Reading and Slough are more ethnically diverse,” Mr Munday said.

But Mr Munday questioned the data’s reliability for estimating percentages of the population that have taken up the Covid vaccines.

He said: “The NHS has started to give population estimates to get a percentage of the uptake and that is fairly helpful, but it is not necessarily the perfect picture of the number of over 80s for example because it gets drawn from GP registration data.

“It isn’t completely accurate. Sometime people move GP surgeries and the list doesn’t get automatically updated.”

Why some areas of Reading have higher uptakes than others

He also explained why some areas of Reading have had higher uptake than others.

This table shows the comparison between different areas:

The public health expert said: “Early doors, not all of the vaccination sites went live at the same time so we ended up getting different numbers depending on when the got started.

“A site like Emmer Green has two surgeries at one site and is fairly simple to set up. Where we have quite a few surgeries at a new site, such as Watlington House, you get started later.

“I think that is probably getting a bit washed out now. The supply of the vaccine is now being targeted to those that are behind.”

‘Reassuring’ news on uptake of the vaccines

Mr Munday said unverified GP practice level data he has seen suggests the range of difference in the amount of people vaccinated at each of the primary care networks across Reading, West Berkshire and Wokingham is between 85 and 96 per cent.

He said this is not a big gap compared to flu vaccinations.

“When we look at flu data, we often see higher performing practices hit 80 per cent and lower performers hit 50 per cent.

“This shows how much smaller the variation is and how much higher the uptake is. That is really reassuring.”

Why are some people less likely to come forward for a vaccine?

“There are some people who are more reluctant to come forward for vaccination,” Mr Munday says.

“Probably, that is a bit more concentrated in Reading and Slough.”

There are three things he looks at to consider why there is vaccine hesitancy:

• Convenience (how easy it is to get it)

• Complacency (people wondering how serious the virus is)

• Confidence (lack of trust in the vaccine)

Mass vaccination sites (such as the ones at the Madejski Stadium in Reading and Salt Hill Activity Centre in Slough) help to make it more convenient for people to get vaccinated, as well as providing vaccines seven days a week and at pharmacies.

READ MORE: Coronavirus in Berkshire round up - Thursday, March 11

Currently, there is one pharmacy offering vaccines in Reading, in Tilehurst, but Mr Munday said more should open in other areas of Reading by the end of March.

The council is also looking into providing outreach clinics at community centres, mosques, churches and libraries.

Mr Munday said complacency is more of an issue as we go down through the priority list, with younger people less likely to feel they need to get vaccinated.

He said: “The message may move more towards not catching it and passing it on to someone lese who is more vulnerable”.

And why are some cultures less likely to say yes to a vaccine?

Mr Munday added: “There are some cultures where they have a greater suspicion of government or of big pharmaceutical companies, and a greater apprehension to trust them.

“That is partly because of how people have experienced life in the UK. We are having conversations to understand where the barriers are.”