Covid: Fake news causing ethnic minorities to reject vaccine, NHS official warns

Warning comes as group of 100 mosques begin using Friday prayers to dispel myths

Adam Forrest
Friday 15 January 2021 10:02 GMT
UK Covid-19 vaccinations: Latest figures

Fake news is likely to be leading people in ethnic minority communities in the UK to reject the coronavirus vaccine, a leading NHS official has warned.

Dr Harpreet Sood – who is leading the health service’s campaign against disinformation – said doctors were now reaching out to community leaders to help correct “so much fake news” about the jab.

Some of the myths and false information circulating on social media and WhatsApp groups has been religiously targeted – including false claims the vaccines contain particular animal produce or alcohol.

“We need to be clear and make people realise there is no meat in the vaccine, there is no pork in the vaccine, it has been accepted and endorsed by all the religious leaders and councils and faith communities,” Dr Sood, NHS England’s associate chief clinical information officer, told BBC News.

He said the NHS was working with religious leaders, as well as celebrity influencers, on a new campaign to help debunk myths being shared online about the vaccine. “We’re making sure the look and feel of it reaches the populations that matter,” said Dr Sood.

It comes as a group of around 100 mosques said they would begin using Friday prayers to dispel myths around vaccinations. A campaign by the Mosque and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB), will also include Imams and community leaders filming themselves being vaccinated.

One December poll commissioned by the Royal Society of Public Health found only found 57 per cent of black, Asian and other ethnic minority people in the UK would be happy to have the Covid-19 vaccine, compared to 79 per cent of white people.

Leeds-based Imam Qari Asim, who is chair of MINAB, said: “The Covid vaccines administered in the UK are halal, permissible from Islamic perspective, and there should be no hesitation in taking them from a moral perspective.”

Mr Asim has also written a special sermon which tackles some of the “fake news” about the vaccine circulating on social media. “My message to Muslim communities is to make an informed choice and take up the offer when their turn for being vaccinated comes,” he said.

He added: “Don’t miss the opportunity by believing in fake news about the vaccines. By taking the vaccine, we are protecting ourselves and others from being infected by this deadly virus that is sweeping through our country and potentially saving lives.”

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