Setting up Covid vaccination centres inside places of worship will help build community trust in the vaccine and increase awareness, religious leaders have said.
The sites are five of 50 mass vaccination centres to open across the UK so far.
Dr Arshad Latif, a Nottingham GP and member of the British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA) Covid-19 Response Group, told Healthcare Leader that the Birmingham mosque’s decision to get involved will ‘definitely allay some of the anxieties and increase awareness’ within the local community.
‘There will be an open discussion about this; there will be an opportunity for people to raise their concerns and talk more openly about it, whereas at the moment, we see that there is either no discussion, or some people are actually taking the anti-vaxxers route,’ he said.
Dr Latif said that BIMA has been trying to encourage other mosques to become a hub for Covid vaccinations.
The organisation – made up of health professionals and religious scholars – has also been working on a ‘myth-busting’ campaign around the Covid-19 virus, and more recently, the vaccine, he added.
Some mosques have also been using Friday sermons as an opportunity to deliver talks about Covid vaccinations, Dr Latif told Healthcare Leader, with one local imam recently consulting with him about how he should approach the topic.
Dr Latif said: ‘The advice that we give to [sermon attendees] is – if you don’t know, then you ask the people who have knowledge, and, if you get a piece of information – which might sound authentic – it’s best to go and verify it before you start believing in it, or before you forward it on to other people.’
Last month, health leaders called for the NHS to form an alliance with BAME voluntary organisations and to develop a ‘culturally competent’ public health message to reassure minority communities about the Covid vaccine.
The call followed a survey by the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH), which found 57% of BAME respondents were ‘likely to accept’ a Covid-19 vaccine if advised to by a health professional, compared with 79% of those from white backgrounds.
Yesterday, the Government announced that more than £23m has been allocated to 60 councils and voluntary groups across England to support those most at risk from Covid and boost vaccine uptake – which includes £1.15m to help faith institutions develop community messaging.
‘We need to rebuild trust’
Manmagun Singh, a spokesperson for Sikh Council UK, told Healthcare Leader that setting up vaccination centres in places of worship will help ‘dispel a lot of misinformation going around’.
He said: ‘Having [the vaccines] in the place of worship itself, and promoting it through the gurdwara, basically shows that we are in support of the vaccination process’.
Places of worship can ‘lead by example’ and counteract false rumours, including those stating that the vaccines are non-compliant with their faith, he added.
Mr Singh said: ‘Trust is a big thing. And I think over the years, respective Governments haven’t really built that trust with the communities. We want to survive as a community, and we can only do that if we have some faith in the processes.
‘We have also done a couple of open online seminars with the NHS, which are, again, dispelling all of these myths, which are going around.’
In November, a Government-backed Covid-19 testing pilot also launched at a Wolverhampton gurdwara.