New NHS figures have revealed more people from ethnic minority backgrounds coming forward COVID-19 vaccination programme – around 700,000 since the Grab-A-Jab campaign launched in July, with increased access to walk-in vaccinations at festivals, places of worship and other convenient sites.
During Grab-A-Jab weekend in July two out of five of the 80,000 walk-in doses administered were to people from ethnic minority groups, significantly more than the proportion in the wider community.
Community pharmacist Mohammad Hassan-Ally is Clinical Lead for the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Merton. He has overseen many thousands of jabs at sites including the Wilson Hospital, the Nelson Health Centre.
Mohammad, and the borough’s roving vaccine team, have also set up clinics in football clubs, community centres, mosques, temples, churches and even a bus garage, in an effort to take the vaccine into local areas and talk to people about the programme.
“At our busiest we were doing 2,500 vaccinations a day at the Wilson,” says Mohammad. “That slowly went down during the summer, but we are still seeing people come in for first doses – which is fantastic because we know they’ll come back for their second. We are even still getting some elderly people.”
Increasing vaccine confidence has been at the heart of the rollout – often by centre staff taking time to talk to people about their concerns. Addressing misinformation on the likes of Facebook and Whasapp groups has been hard work, and is an ongoing process, but is paying off.
“The myth of the vaccine containing microchips has been busted – not many people believe that now, but infertility still comes up as a concern. I encountered a husband-and-wife couple who were very hesitant about getting the vaccine. They were originally from Ghana and had heard a lot of misinformation circulating on WhatsApp and from family back home and in the UK too.
“Their main concern was about infertility as they were trying for a baby. They understood that the benefit of having the vaccine outweighed the risk of complications of contracting COVID during pregnancy. With a bit of reluctance, they took a leap of faith and had the vaccine. I saw the couple again at the Wilson for their second dose and they told me they were expecting!”
Among younger people there are different challenges: “They think that if they have COVID they’ll recover pretty quickly, but they don’t understand the consequences, the effects of long covid symptoms.”
The NHS has been offering all 16 and 17-year-olds a single dose of the vaccine in line with updated JCVI guidance issued on 4 August. Young people in this age group can get their jabs at one of the walk-in clinics happening daily in Merton.
Whatever your age, says Mohammad, if haven’t had your vaccine, yet you’re still welcome at our sites. “It’s never too late. Our clinics at the Wilson and Nelson will remain open until the end of the year.”
You can find a walk-in clinic near you by visiting swlondonccg.nhs.uk/covid-walk-in-clinics. You can also pop into any vaccine centre if you have questions or concerns, with no pressure to have the jab – one of our friendly matrons, nurses or pharmacists will always be happy to chat.