Two MPs from the Labour and Conservative parties are taking part in coronavirus vaccine trials, following a call for more ethnic minority volunteers.
Shadow housing minister Naz Shah announced this week she was volunteering, and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch had her first jab in October.
Thousands more people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, as well as those aged over 65, are needed for Covid-19 vaccine trials.
Ethnic minority groups are “under-represented” in clinical trials in the UK, despite research showing BAME people are disproportionately affected by coronavirus, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said.
Speaking on BBC Politics North wearing the vaccine trial wristband from Bradford Teaching Hospitals University, Ms Shah said: “I’ve taken part to give reassurances to people, to make informed choices about being part of a trial for vaccines.”
And in a video filmed by the NHS Trust outside the University of Bradford, Ms Shah said volunteering was her “way of contributing to the good work that the hospital trust and university, and people up and down the country are doing” to create a safe vaccine.
The MP for Bradford West said: “The reason it’s so important and I felt I needed to take part in this trial is because, whilst we have a large black and minority ethnic community, we know this virus impacts disproportionately on those from those communities.”
The Trust is working with partners to test the vaccine, developed by bio-tech firm Novavax. Learn more ⬇️
— Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS FT #HandsFaceSpace (@BTHFT) November 27, 2020
Treasury minister Ms Badenoch, who had her first jab on October 13 as part of a vaccine trial for US biotechnology firm Novavax, said she volunteered to help ensure “every community trusts a future vaccine to be safe” and make sure it works “across the entire population”.
The MP for Saffron Walden added: “With less than half a per cent of people on the NHS Vaccine Registry from a black background, we have a lot more work to do.”
A National Institute for Health Research spokesperson said: “We are still looking for more volunteers, particularly people from BAME backgrounds, so that the vaccines, and other studies on Covid can help protect the whole population, particularly those most at risk of serious disease.
“354,000 people have already volunteered through signing up to the NHS Covid-19 Vaccine Research Registry across the UK. It’s thanks to these volunteers that we’ll shortly have vaccines ready for the regulators to review for more widespread use.
“7.6% of the registry’s volunteers come from a non-white background. This is important to help make sure vaccines and other treatments are effective for and supported by the whole community.
“The interim results of the first three vaccine trials are encouraging, but it’s very important that research continues. For example, we need further data on whether one or other vaccine is better suited to specific groups of people, such as children or the elderly. And for all the vaccines and possible combinations, we need to study how long the protection lasts to work out how frequently people will need to receive another dose.
“Participation in research continues to be a vital part of the fight against Covid.”
According to Public Health England, people from black backgrounds are statistically more likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19, while death rates are higher for BAME groups.
The Office for National Statistics said people of black ethnicity were 1.9 times more likely to die from a coronavirus-related death than those of white ethnicity.
Six different coronavirus vaccines are currently being developed in the UK, however thousands of people from different ages and backgrounds are needed to help speed up the process, the BEIS said.