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Sensemaker: Vaccine neighbourhoods

Tuesday 6 July 2021

What just happened


Long stories short

  • A mudslide in the Japanese resort town of Atami claimed four lives. Over 80 people are still missing.
  • Gunmen kidnapped at least 140 children from a school in northwest Nigeria, a region plagued by abductions for ransom, and escaped into a nearby forest.
  • Campaigners began raising money to repair Offa’s Dyke, a 1,200-year-old and 177-mile-long earthwork that traces the Welsh and English border. “It’s not the most glamorous of monuments, to be honest,” campaign leader Dan Llwelyn Hall said.

Vaccine neighbourhoods

Boris Johnson said the government will almost certainly lift most remaining Covid restrictions in England on 19 July. While scientists warned that new infections have been rising rapidly over the past few days, Johnson said the link between infections and hospital admissions has been broken thanks to Britain’s widespread deployment of vaccines. 

But fine-grained data on vaccine uptake tells a very different story. The map below plots government data on first-doses administered to the adult population of each English neighbourhood.

The variation in uptake is staggering. It ranges from 28.6 per cent in Tidenham & Wollaston, Gloucestershire to 93.3 per cent in Morpeth, Northumberland.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the map is the substantially lower levels of uptake in urban cores. England’s biggest cities – London, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle, Leeds, Liverpool – all have much lower uptake than the rest of the country. Why?

A statistical model of the map’s data reveals the following:

  • Older populations have higher vaccine uptake. Britain’s vaccine roll-out prioritised older groups, moving through younger generations over time. Cities tend to have younger populations, so the implication of this result is that they’ll also have lower uptake.
  • Cities tend to have more ethnically diverse populations – in London, 40.2 per cent of residents identified as either Asian, Black, Mixed or Other – and a higher Black and Asian population share is negatively correlated with vaccine uptake. There could be a lot of different mechanisms at work here. Is ethnicity actually measuring income or precarious work? 
  • The result holds even when controlling for household income, which is positively correlated with vaccine uptake. This may be measuring higher education levels or jobs that allow time off to get vaccinated. Either way richer areas tend to have higher uptake. What does this imply for the ethnicity result above? Surveys have found that Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi respondents are uneasy about Covid vaccines because of their “historical mistrust of government and public health bodies”, and that “[s]ome have capitalised on these concerns to spread misinformation”.
  • One of the strongest results is that the greater the share of women in a neighbourhood’s population, the higher vaccine uptake is. This is counter-intuitive in a sense because – before vaccines were available – more men were dying of Covid than women. But women tend to live longer than men, so were more likely to be vaccinated early in the roll-out. US researchers have also suggested their role as primary care-givers makes them more concerned about preventive health than men.

Back to the map – and Johnson’s statement. He relies on England’s national first-dose vaccination rate – around 86 per cent – to justify lifting Covid restrictions on what supportive newspapers persist in calling Freedom Day. But beneath that big, aggregate number there are thousands of practically unvaccinated neighbourhoods.


Belonging identity, society, beliefs, countries

Luntz survey
A new survey by Frank Luntz, who spent nearly three decades working for the US Republican Party, showed that 53 per cent of adults under 30 said they had stopped talking to someone because of something political they said, compared with 18 per cent for those aged between 50 and 64 years old. The study, reported in the Times (£), found that Labour and Conservative voters share common core values, like “trust and integrity”, but that Labour voters were much more likely to think Britain was “full of injustice and inequality”. Not really news. Luntz said the study, commissioned by the right-wing Centre for Policy Studies in London, shows the “wokeness” and “cancel culture” his study uncovered risked exacerbating the division. Critics have poked holes in some of the conclusions being drawn from the data.


New things technology, science, engineering

Doxing
The Asia Internet Coalition, which includes Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, warned Hong Kong’s government that it may stop operating in the jurisdiction if planned changes to data-protection laws go ahead. The warning was sent in a private letter dated 25 June and seen by the Wall Street Journal ($). The big tech firms are worried that the new rules would make them liable for the malicious sharing of individuals’ information online – doxing – so that they can be harassed. Under the rules, they’d face fines of up to $128,000 and five years’ imprisonment. “The only way to avoid these sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering the services in Hong Kong,” the letter said. It’ll be WeChat and Weibo only soon enough. 


The 100-year life health, education, living, public poliCY

HIV drug
The first antiretroviral specifically designed for children with HIV has been distributed by aid organisations in Africa, Reuters reports. Funded by Unitaid and the Clinton Health Access Initiative, 100,000 packs have been sent to Sub-Saharan Africa, where 90 per cent of the 1.8 million children with HIV live. Currently only about half of those children receive any treatment. When they do it is often crushed adult pills that leave a bitter taste and are the wrong dosage. Instead, this version of the anti-retroviral dolutegravir is strawberry flavoured and specifically designed for children – and it’s cheaper too. Just $120 for a child’s annual treatment, instead of the current $480 bill. Unitaid spokesman Herve Verhoosel told Reuters he hopes the drug will kickstart demand and enable “widespread access for all eligible children at an unprecedented pace”.


Our planet environment, natural resources, geopolitics

Lebanon on edge
In Lebanon, food, fuel, and medicine have grown increasingly scarce. The double blow of the Covid pandemic and the Beirut port explosion that killed about 200 people and severely damaged the capital have devastated the country’s economy. In terms of its effects on living standards, the World Bank said Lebanon’s economic crisis could rank among the world’s worst since the mid-1800s. The economy had long been precarious, but it’s the underlying political mess that has made it so bad. Before resigning from cabinet last August, caretaker prime minister Hassan Diab said Lebanon’s “system of corruption” isn’t only “deeply rooted in all the functions of the state,” but in fact “bigger than the state” and so powerful that the state “cannot confront it or get rid of it”.


Wealth investment, fairness, prosperity

Rachadinha
A leading Brazilian news website, UOL, reported that Jair Bolsonaro ran an embezzlement scheme while a member of the lower house of congress between 1991 and 2018. The alleged fiddle involved a widespread practice called rachadinha in which politicians take a cut of their staff’s wages. Bolsonaro denied the story but it has led to renewed calls for his impeachment all the same. When he was elected president in 2019, Bolsonaro vowed to “forever free the fatherland from the yoke of corruption”.

Thanks for reading, and please share this around.

Paul Caruana Galizia
@pcaruanagalizia

Phoebe Davis
@phoebe_ivy

Photographs Getty Images


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