A vaccination clinic was held in Exeter Mosque this week as the NHS and public health partners in Devon continue working with local communities to increase takeup of the Covid vaccine.
The event was part of collaborative work by NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Devon County Council and other partners to address vaccine hesitancy, including among local ethnic minority communities.
On Wednesday, 5 May, a vaccination team from Exeter City Primary Care Network, a group of six local GP practices, held a small-scale ‘pop-up’ vaccination session at the Mosque.
The clinic was the first of its kind held by the NHS in Devon and followed a series of engagement events held at the Mosque to listen to the views and concerns of worshippers about the vaccination programme and ask whether people were happy to receive the injection during Ramadan.
Feedback from worshippers highlighted that misinformation on social media was one of the reasons why some people were hesitant about taking up the vaccine. To help allay any concerns, the NHS provided information in a number of different languages and a Muslim NHS clinician attended Friday prayers last week to answer questions in person about the vaccine. Trustees, Imams and the NHS then worked together to arrange a vaccination session in the familiar surroundings of the Mosque.
Vaccinations were given to eligible people in line with the national programme, which is currently offering the jab to people aged 40 and over.
Imam Kawsar Ahmed, of Exeter Mosque, who had already received a first vaccination dose, said: “I believe, that there is no doubt it is an obligation and a responsibility for each and every one of us to take this vaccination to protect ourselves and to protect those around us. I strongly request all our brothers and sisters, everyone in the community, to come forward to have their vaccine as it could save their life.
“We have been working closely with the NHS in Devon to give our brothers and sisters reliable information, assurance and encouragement to have their vaccine.”
Among those receiving their vaccination at the session was Lookman Hussain, who said: “Everyone needs to have the vaccination.”
Tahir Choudhury, who also received his first dose at the session, added: “It’s amazing, I feel a lot safer. It was very welcoming, simple, easy. It’s very important to get vaccinated, it’s safer for yourself and others around you.”
Dr Frances Palmer, of Exeter City Primary Care Network, welcomed the opportunity to work with Mosque leaders to vaccinate patients within the building: “We know some of our patients have been anxious about the vaccine. We have been working with patients to support them to have the vaccine and welcome this opportunity to offer it in a familiar and reassuring setting.”
Dr Paul Johnson, Clinical chair of NHS Devon CCG said: “I had the pleasure of meeting some of the members of Exeter Mosque at one of our engagement events.
This is one of a variety approaches we have to supporting people who may be more hesitant about the vaccine. It is important that everyone who is eligible has the Covid-19 vaccine to protect themselves and their loved ones.”
Devon CCG and public health partners have been working with ethnic minority communities and other groups, including people who are homeless, to offer reassurance and support in accessing the Covid-19 vaccine. As part of this work, NHS staff in Devon from ethnic minority backgrounds have volunteered to become vaccine ambassadors to help dispel misinformation in their communities and encourage people to have the vaccination.
NHS England and NHS Improvement has launched a series of animations aimed at tackling disinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine. The animations are aimed specifically at encouraging uptake in ethnic minority groups, are available in 17 different languages and are suitable for use on a wide range of social media platforms.
They cover key topics including vaccine safety, how it was tested, how it was developed so quickly, what is in it, and what the side effects are.
Original files can be downloaded from the campaign resource centre in the form of short clips and also a longer video, and the English versions are also available on YouTube.
Nationally, two leading Muslim figures working in the NHS have joined other medical leaders and Islamic scholars in stressing that Ramadan should not stop anyone from getting the NHS Covid vaccination. Imam Yunus Dudhwala, Head of Chaplaincy at Barts Health NHS Trust, and Dr Farzana Hussain, a senior GP, said getting the jab does not break the fast observed by Muslims during daylight hours over Ramadan.
Meanwhile The British Islamic Medical Association has opened an email hotline for NHS staff, running seven days a week throughout Ramadan to answer questions relating to COVID-19 vaccination. Email CV19staff@britishma.org.
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