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Drive to help ethnic communities feel safe about COVID-19 vaccine

Sophia Minshull

Cheshire and Merseyside NHS is teaming up with ethnic minority communities to launch a campaign promoting vaccine safety.

Using insight from local research, representatives from ethnic minority 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 (pictured) is encouraging others in ethnic minority communities 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 minority 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 minority 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.

Ian Ashworth, Director of Public Health at Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: "It is clear from scientific evidence that the vaccine is safe. We have now given well over 20 million doses of the vaccine in England. The NHS would not offer any COVID-19 vaccinations to the public until it was safe to do so and the evidence shows that the vaccine is effective.

"It is more important than ever that we reassure everyone about how safe and effective the vaccine is. We are already working closely with communities across the borough to help build vaccine confidence. Our community leaders are sharing their positive stories about the vaccine, helping to provide the facts to community groups and showing how safe, effective and easy it is to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"We are acting on the information that our communities are telling us to help address the concerns with different groups and meet their needs, including a targeted campaign which we will launch across Cheshire and Merseyside this week."

Clare Watson, Accountable Officer for NHS Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group, 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. We will continue to 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.