The Covid vaccination rate is lower in more deprived areas of York, sparking worries about inequality in the city.
York public health data shows people living in the Guildhall area – which includes The Groves, Layerthorpe, Foss Islands and the city centre – have the lowest rate of vaccination among the over 65s.
This is followed by council electoral wards Clifton, Micklegate, Fishergate and Heworth. According to Government data, the most deprived areas of York are Westfield, Clifton, Guildhall and Heworth.
In contrast the areas at the top of the table for vaccination are among the wealthiest – Bishopthorpe, Heworth Without, Haxby & Wigginton and Rural West York.
But a council spokesperson said in every ward more than 85% of over 65s have had a first dose of the vaccine.
Fiona Philips, from York’s public health team, says deprivation is one of several issues that could be behind the difference in vaccination rates.
“Bishopthorpe has the highest uptake,” she said. “It’s a reasonably affluent ward and it’s right on the doorstep of our regional vaccination site [at Askham Bar former Park&Ride] so it’s really easy for people to get there and we’ve potentially got a more motivated population.”
“When we compare that to some of our other wards, that are less affluent perhaps, we can see the vaccination uptake is much lower.
“In the more deprived wards, the uptake is likely to be lower. In the least deprived wards, the vaccine uptake is much higher.”
Marc Bichtemann, of First Bus York, said he would be happy to work with the council on improving transport to the vaccination site.
Tom Bird, chief executive at York Theatre Royal, has offered the theatre’s facilities as a city centre vaccination hub.
Guildhall councillor Fiona Fitzpatrick said: “The current uptake may reflect the fact that a lot of older residents in the ward don’t have transport and may currently be worried about using public transport to get to the edge of York for their vaccinations.
“So there is a challenge for health professionals in how they can make getting vaccinated easier for some residents but I’m optimistic the figure will move closer to 100 per cent in the coming weeks.”
Clifton councillor Danny Myers warned the statistics could be a sign of inequality that has worsened because of the pandemic.
Affluent areas are often just streets away from some of the most deprived streets in the city, according to council data.
Cllr Myers said: “Inequality across the city has existed for some time but it is going to increase as a result of the pandemic.
“Extra measures need to be taken to stop us from just accepting that. Certain communities need extra support.
“I think difficulties getting to the Askham Bar vaccination site is probably one of the reasons for lower uptake in these areas.
“It is not a surprise that vaccination rates are lower in these areas, but it could have been avoided.”
“This is predictable if public health spending isn’t prioritised towards areas where it is most needed. Equal access to testing, access to employment support schemes and now access to the vaccine are all based along the widening dividing lines of those who are more affluent and those who are less well off.
“Not enough is being done to educate all communities about the vaccine, particularly in areas with a greater distrust of the establishment, the anti-vaccine campaigners need to be challenged much more robustly.”
The public health team will focus on boosting vaccination rates in Guildhall first and look for trusted members of the community to encourage people to get vaccinated.
Sharon Stoltz, director of public health, said there is already a vaccine inequalities group with members including GPs and the clinical commissioning group. They will be asked to look at the data and produce a report.
Mr Bichtemann said: “It would be great to get a report back on any potential actions we could take to drive up that vaccine take-up across the wards as we’ve got really solid data that shows us where we might need to focus.”
Fiona Philips, assistant director of public health, speaking after the meeting said: “94.54% of people over the age of 65 have had a first dose of the vaccines and the high levels of uptake has been fantastic to see.
“This combined with the data which shows these vaccines to be safe and very effective means we have real hope and can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“The data we presented showed that in every ward more than 85% of over 65s have had a first dose of the vaccine.
“However it has shown that some wards have lower uptake than others.
“We are committed to ensuring that we support residents to have their Covid vaccine as it doesn’t only protect the individual but those around them and the wider community.
“We are working with a range of partners, including the CCG, Nimbuscare and primary care to understand this data and how we can help those who are eligible and yet to have their vaccine to get their jabs.
“This will mean us working locally to understand and address any barriers or concerns about getting vaccinated.
“We have also seen some local businesses offer their support too which is greatly appreciated.
“It shows once again how this city looks after each other. We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to increase uptake of the vaccine and will be in touch with those partners who have kindly offered their help and work with the Outbreak Management Advisory Board to increase take up so we have as high an uptake as possible across the city.”