Cheshire and Merseyside NHS is teaming up with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities to launch a campaign promoting vaccine safety.
Using insight from local research, representatives from ethnic communities will address questions about the vaccine in a series of radio adverts, posters and social media adverts planned across the local area.
Findings from the research carried out in Cheshire and Merseyside are also being shared with senior health and social care leaders, to help ensure everyone has all the facts around the vaccine and nobody gets left behind.
Chester resident Sophia Minshull is encouraging others in the Pakistani Persian community to take up the vaccine as the safest, most effective way to tackle the virus. The 53-year-old mum-of-two was surprised to hear how there were concerns around the vaccine among Muslims. She said:
“My son, who’s 18, is classed as vulnerable after surviving a brain tumour as a child, so he’s been invited to get the vaccine. His first reaction was not to have it because of misinformation he has seen, but we’ve since discussed it and I’ve told him it’s not just him that he’s protecting – it’s everyone around him.
“I’m particularly passionate about encouraging women within ethnic communities to take up the vaccine so they too can be protected and to get the vaccine – it’s vital for not only themselves, but for future generations.”
The research surveyed people across the region from ethnic communities to develop an in-depth understanding of their experiences of COVID-19 and their views towards the vaccination.
It found that concerns about efficacy and fear of potential side effects are among the top reasons why a third (33%) of minority ethnic communities in Cheshire and Merseyside are reluctant to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
Although overall uptake of the vaccine amongst the first four priority groups is now just under 90%, the uptake is lower amongst some ethnic minority communities, which the local NHS says is a concern, given the fact that these communities are being disproportionately affected by the virus.
Dr Raj Kumar, Cheshire and Merseyside GP and Chair of the NHS Clinical Leaders Network said: “It is clear from scientific evidence that the vaccine is safe. We have now given over 17 million doses of the vaccine in England and I myself have been busy vaccinating thousands of local people. The NHS would not offer any COVID-19 vaccinations to the public until it was safe to do so and the evidence is that the vaccine is effective.
“It is more important than ever that we reassure people. We are already starting to utilise this data from our research to tailor our approaches to address the concerns of different groups and meet their needs including a targeted campaign which we will launch across Cheshire and Merseyside this week.”
Dr Linda Charles-Ozuzu, Regional Director of Commissioning for NHS England and NHS Improvement and Senior Responsible Officer for the COVID-19 vaccination programme in the North West, said: “It is vital that everyone who is at a higher risk of infection has the right information and are reassured about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
“Tens of thousands of people from the Cheshire and Merseyside patch, who identify themselves as being from an ethnic minority backgrounds and are eligible, have already had one dose of the vaccine and this is really positive.
Edna Boampong, Deputy Director of Communications and Engagement at the Cheshire and Merseyside Heath and Care Partnership, and Communications Lead for Cheshire and Merseyside’s COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, said: “It’s critical to understand and differentiate the concerns amongst different ethnic minority groups in relation to COVID-19 and their views on public health messaging, so now we will work hard to gain a better understanding of ethnic communities so we can ensure we’re doing everything we can to address the specific concerns people have.”
The study, which was co-funded by Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership, NHS England and NHS Improvement, Public Health England and Cheshire and Merseyside’s Directors of Public Health, surveyed 636 people from across Cheshire and Merseyside.