Revealed: How Sheffield is split as volunteer project finds inequalities in Covid-19 vaccine uptake

Sheffield is divided as a volunteer-led study into the city’s Covid-19 vaccine uptake reveals a ‘pattern’ showing people from affluent areas are more likely to be vaccinated.

By Sam Ward
Thursday, 15th April 2021, 7:00 am
Burngreave has one of the lowest percentages of over 65's being vaccinated.
Burngreave has one of the lowest percentages of over 65's being vaccinated.

In total 181,970 people aged over 50 in Sheffield have had the first dose of the vaccine to April 4, which is about 89 per cent of people in that age bracket across the whole city.

However, Sheffield Community Contact Tracers say they have found that this figure does not correlate with the city as a whole – and some areas have considerably less than 89 per cent of that age population vaccinated.

Sheffield Community Contact Tracers is a volunteer-led project helping to identify gaps in systems relating to COVID-19, and to raise awareness on these issues.

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Nurse Sally Griffiths prepares to administer an injection of AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine to a patient at the vaccination centre set up at St Columba's church in Sheffield earlier this year. Picture: Getty Images

Utilising public data, they have now been able to analyse the success of the vaccine rollout programme across Sheffield, and have identified stark inequalities across the city through a number of maps.

The Contact Tracers have split the city into 70 ‘Middle Super Output Areas’ (MSOAs), giving them the “ability to look at what is happening at a finer level than just the 28 wards,” said speaker Dr Nick Payne, a retired professor of public health.

In areas to the east and north of Sheffield, the percentage of over 65’s vaccinated is around 75 per cent – considerably less than areas to the south or west of the city, such as Dore, Millhouses and Beauchief, where the rate is around 90 per cent uptake in those aged over 65.

In Burngreave and Grimesthorpe the percentage of vaccine uptake in over 65s is 70 per cent – but opposite, to the west of the city in Upper Stannington and Loxley, the rate is an impressive 95 per cent uptake.

The volunteer group, which sits within the Heeley Trust charity and includes retired GPs, doctors and health professionals, now says that the correlation between poverty and lower vaccine uptake is becoming an increasingly worrying pattern.

Dr Payne said in a presentation on the group’s work, watched by the Telegraph: “The pattern is revealed when you look at poverty and socio-deprivation and affluence..

"The highest case rates are in the most deprived parts of Sheffield in the north and east of the city

"Sadly the map (of vaccine uptake) looks very similar to that overall pattern we have seen already, The lowest vaccination rates are also generally lower in the north and east of Sheffield.”

The study also looked at the inverse care law, a term coined in 1971 that looks at the availability of care to those who need it most in a given area.

Dr Payne said: "The so-called inverse care law says that those in most need of care often have the least uptake and availability of it, the inverse care law whereby those in most need have the lowest vaccination rates needs to be addressed and those areas not only suffer from having more socio-economic disadvantage, but also a higher Covid case rate. They also tend to be the ones with the lower vaccination rates.”

Reasons for the differing uptake rates have a number of factors as well as affluence, including some areas having vaccination centres and some having a considerably lower population of over 65s.

"Some areas with low vaccination rates also have very small numbers of population over 65, which we don’t have to worry about so much,” Dr Payne said.

This includes Cathedral and Kelham, one of the MSOAs with the lowest vaccination rates in over 65s – but that is less of a concern than an area such as Burngreave, where the population of over 65s is considerably higher.

There is also a correlation between the most ethnically diverse areas in Sheffield, predominantly in the east of the city, also having a lower vaccine take up.

Dr Abdul Shaif founded the Sheffield COVID-19 BAMER Action Group, which represents 14 BAMER organisations across Sheffield, in response to how BAMER communities were dealt with during the pandemic.

He said: “We were fully aware that the system wasn’t going to respond to the needs of the BAMER communities in the way it should so we knew that we had to play our part.”

Other concerns about lower vaccine take up have come from people worrying about the safety of the vaccines, and in particular, the concern that the AstraZeneca vaccine increases the chances of a blood clot.

However, last week Sheffield GP Ollie Hart said they are ‘still encouraging people to have their second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine’ and that “you're as likely to get killed by a meteorite as AstraZeneca vaccine”.

A 28-year-old Sheffield solicitor, Emily Sanderson, was also among the first people in England to receive the new Moderna vaccine at Sheffield Arena this week.