Sheffield steps up efforts to encourage more Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups to have their Covid-19 vaccinations

Efforts are being stepped up in Sheffield to encourage more individuals from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups to have their Covid-19 vaccinations and to dispel the inaccurate associated myths.

By Lisa Wong
Tuesday, 23rd February 2021, 4:45 pm

Initiatives to address concerns about the vaccine from these groups have been stepped up across the country, including a video featuring celebrities from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, which was aired on all main channels last week.

Faith leaders, councillors and doctors have been echoing the same message in Sheffield, reassuring communities about the safety of the vaccine and encouraging them to accept their invitations to have it.

Dr Janet Chelliah, a Sheffield-based GP who is of a South Asian background, said: “I felt very fortunate to have received my first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine on New Year's Eve. After a challenging year experienced by all, receiving the vaccine was a symbol of hope for me. I am sure many people getting the vaccine would have felt the same.

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Janet Chelliah, a Sheffield-based GP.

“I think it is important that everyone gets the vaccine, not only can it reduce the severity of the infection but there is evidence it may reduce transmission. Being a BAME individual in my 50s, a mum to a vulnerable child and a GP, I want to do all I can to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to my family, friends and everyone I come into contact with.

“The low uptake of individuals from the BAME community in the recruitment for vaccination trials is early evidence of the lack of trust from this community. Now we see between half to two thirds of the communities not keen on being vaccinated. There are several BAME communities in South Yorkshire and we must do all we can to reach out to these communities.

“There are several reasons why the uptake is low. Cultural and language barriers, lack of trust in various organisations due to negative experiences in the health care system, religious beliefs, lack of access to vital information and underrepresentation of BAME communities in certain positions of trust, are some of the contributing factors.

“However, this community needs to be advised and educated on why it is important for them to get the vaccine to protect themselves and their own families and friends. A significant proportion of deaths from Covid-19 are high in the BAME communities.

Imam Osama from Makki Mosque Sheffield has recorded a video of Dr Chetty giving him his vaccination.

"Being in households where more than two generations of families and extended family members live together and regularly meet up is also a risk for virus transmission.

"These communities are also noted to have a higher risk of chronic medical problems like diabetes and heart disease which can make individuals more vulnerable if infected with Covid-19. Elderly parents are also looked after at home by family members, and they need protection just like how the elderly are being protected by care home staff.

“I also feel some BAME communities may not be aware of the JCVI Covid 19 vaccination categories. There might be unpaid carers, vulnerable young individuals and people with learning disabilities who are entitled to the vaccination now and may not know they can have it.

"It is possible for people to get 'lost 'in the system or there might be information not made known to the health service by these families and so they are not included in the system for this reason.

Cricketer Moeen Ali was one of the many high profile personalities who took part in a UK TV ad campaign encouraging BAME groups to have the Covid-19 vaccine. Photo credit: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

“I think it is important to understand how the BAME communities get their information about Covid-19. Therefore, local media, religious leaders and local community leaders play an important part in educating their communities as they are seen as trusted individuals.”

Jamia Ghausia Centre on Firth Park Road, is now the first Covid-19 vaccine clinic in a mosque in the whole of Yorkshire and it is hoped this will offer communities some form of reassurance.

At the Heeley Plus Primary Care Network vaccination hub last week, Imam Osama from Makki Mosque Sheffield was filmed having his Covid-19 vaccination.

He has made videos discussing the safety of the vaccine to encourage people in the Asian community to take it up, whilst also addressing false information circulating amongst individuals.

There are a number of vaccination centres and hubs across Sheffield now.

Videos have been recorded in Urdu and Arabic in an attempt to reach more members of the community where the language barrier may contribute to a lack of understanding.

Likewise, a film has been made for members of the Roma community in Sheffield by Dr Andrzej Kurpiel.

As a retired doctor and Pastor who is well-known amongst the Roma community, Dr Kurpiel wants to provide reassurance that the Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective.

The Somali community is another group in Sheffield which is seeing some individuals hesitant to have the vaccination.

It has been suggested that information passed between WhatsApp groups may be to blame.

A man who volunteers to help Sheffield’s Somali community and who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The elderly Somali people are the hardest to persuade it seems. I know some who have point blank refused their invitations and they just can’t seem to be persuaded otherwise. We have tried interpreting the information and such but I think they need to hear it from someone credited with a higher status.”

Jamia Ghausia Centre on Firth Park Road, is now the first Covid-19 vaccine clinic in a mosque in the whole of Yorkshire.

Councillor Kaltum Rivers has recorded a message in Somali in an effort to encourage the community to get vaccinated.

There appears to be a more positive uptake of the vaccination for Sheffield’s Chinese community however.

For the Lai Yin Association - a charity which works to improve the well-being for Chinese women and their families in Sheffield - a few members have had their first vaccines and, so far, there have been little to no problems.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.