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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Covid-19: Breaking down Asian vaccine myths in Lancashire

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Neetal Parekh

A teacher is making online videos with children to tackle myths in South Asian communities about the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine.

A study recently found some ethnic minorities were targeted with inaccurate anti-vaccination messages.

Neetal Parekh, from Preston, believes the language barrier is one reason why some older people have been scared to have the vaccine.

She said many were being misled “simply because they do not know enough”.

The 36-year-old has created a collection of short videos of young children urging their grandparents to have the vaccine in a variety of South Asian languages such as Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu.

She said the videos have since been shared widely on social media and messaging sites to help combat any misunderstandings and misinformation.

The Royal Society for Public Health found that 57% of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people said they would take a Covid vaccine.

This compares with 79% of white people.

‘Anxious and reluctant’

Dr Arif Dasu, from Avenham Surgery in Preston, said some patients in the Asian community were “apprehensive, anxious and reluctant” to be vaccinated against coronavirus.

“The reason for this is mainly because of videos that are circulating [which] have been negative and against the vaccine,” he said.

“They are non-evidence based, not backed by science and often very misleading.”

Dr Arif Dasu

Mr Dasu, who is part of a taskforce set up to address concerns surrounding Covid-19, said it was important to raise awareness to build confidence in the vaccine.

At Avenham Surgery, he said there was a team of professionals who speak different languages to “help engage with the community… and explain to them what the benefits of the vaccine are”.

The parents of Shiraj Bux, who are both aged 81, were among some of the first people to have the vaccine there.

“It was a great relief because of my mum and dad’s age and they are so vulnerable,” said Mr Bux, who cares for his parents.

He added the public “shouldn’t be worried because it’s all tested and it’s very safe in all respects”.

The Bux family

Nadhim Zahawi MP, who is the minister responsible for Covid vaccine deployment, said he recognised “the importance of raising awareness of the myriad benefits of vaccination within BAME communities, who are known to be more at risk from Covid-19”.

“The NHS provides targeted advice and public information about the vaccination process to build awareness about its benefits,” he said.

While there is evidence that certain BAME groups have higher rates of infection, there is no evidence to suggest ethnicity itself is the sole explanation.

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