Doctors fear ‘fake news’ is causing South Asian people to reject Covid vaccine

Doctors have expressed fears over ‘fake news’ causing South Asian people to reject the Covid vaccine over false claims that the jabs contain alcohol or meat and can alter patients’ DNA.

Dr Harpreet Sood, who is a Global Digital Health Advisor, said language and cultural boundaries are partly responsible for the false material spread via social media and WhatsApp.

The practising doctor is working on an NHS anti-disinformation campaign with South Asian influencers and religious leaders to disprove myths about the jab.

Much of the false information appears to be targeted at Muslims, who do not drink alcohol or eat pork, and Hindus, who consider cows to be sacred.

It follows research from last month suggesting that people from minority ethnic backgrounds are significantly less likely to take the Covid vaccine.

Dr Sood told the BBC: ‘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 Harpreet Sood (pictured), who is NHS England's Associate Chief Clinical Information Officer, said language and cultural boundaries are partly responsible for the false material

Dr Harpreet Sood (pictured), who is NHS England's Associate Chief Clinical Information Officer, said language and cultural boundaries are partly responsible for the false material

Dr Harpreet Sood (pictured), who is NHS England’s Associate Chief Clinical Information Officer, said language and cultural boundaries are partly responsible for the false material

He added: ‘We’re trying to find role models and influencers and also thinking about ordinary citizens who need to be quick with this information so that they can all support one another because ultimately everyone is a role model to everyone.’ 

False information was reportedly shared through social media and WhatsApp messages, wrongly claiming the vaccine contains meat or alcohol.

Dr Samara Afzal, who works in Dudley, West Midlands, said many South Asian patients have been refusing appointments when offered the vaccination. 

Reena Pujara, who is a Hindu and works as a beauty therapist in Hampshire, said her social media has been flooded with the ‘fake news’.

She said: ‘Some of the videos are quite disturbing especially when you actually see the person reporting is a medic and telling you that the vaccine is going to alter your DNA.’

The comments come as around 100 mosques plan to use Friday prayers to raise coronavirus awareness and dispel myths around vaccinations.  

A recent study showed 57 per cent of people from BAME backgrounds would be likely to take a Covid-19 jab if advised to by their GP or health professional (file photo)

A recent study showed 57 per cent of people from BAME backgrounds would be likely to take a Covid-19 jab if advised to by their GP or health professional (file photo)

A recent study showed 57 per cent of people from BAME backgrounds would be likely to take a Covid-19 jab if advised to by their GP or health professional (file photo)

Imams to use Friday prayers to dispel Covid vaccine myths

Around 100 mosques are using Friday prayers to raise coronavirus awareness and dispel myths around vaccinations. 

The campaign, run by the Mosque and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB), will also include Imams and community leaders filming themselves being vaccinated to reassure communities the jabs are permissible and vital to defeat the virus. 

Leeds-based Imam Qari Asim, who is chair of MINAB, said: ‘MINAB strongly recommends people to take the vaccines. ‘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. 

‘MINAB is advocating this position through its proactive endeavour for the BAME communities to be vaccinated, as BAME communities are at very high risk of being infected by this lethal virus.’ 

Imam Asim has written a special sermon which tackles some of the ‘fake news’ about the vaccine which is 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. 

‘Don’t miss the opportunity by believing in ‘fake news’ about the vaccines. 

‘It is our ethical duty to protect ourselves and others from potential harm. 

‘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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The campaign, run by the Mosque and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB), will also include Imams and community leaders filming themselves being vaccinated to reassure communities the jabs are permissible and vital to defeat the virus.

Leeds-based Imam Qari Asim, who is chair of MINAB, said: ‘MINAB strongly recommends people to take the vaccines.

‘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.

‘MINAB is advocating this position through its proactive endeavour for the BAME communities to be vaccinated, as BAME communities are at very high risk of being infected by this lethal virus.’

A recent study showed three-quarters (76 per cent) of the British public would take a Covid-19 jab if advised to by their GP or health professional, according to polling for the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).

This fell to 57 per cent of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds who would be likely to, compared with 79 per cent of white respondents.

Confidence was lowest among respondents of Asian ethnicity, with 55 per cent likely to say yes to a jab.

The RSPH previously said there was an issue with anti-vaccination messages being ‘targeted at different groups, including different ethnic or religious communities’, adding that these groups ‘continue to be most at risk of getting ill and most at risk of dying’. 

And 70 per cent of the lowest earners were likely to say yes to a vaccine, compared with 84 per cent of the highest earners.

Men were more likely to get the jab than women, and 14 per cent of Londoners said they would be ‘very unlikely’ to get vaccinated – the highest proportion in the UK.

Overall, just 8 per cent of those surveyed said they would be very unlikely to take a coronavirus vaccine.

BAME respondents who said they were not willing to be vaccinated were open to offers of further health information from their GP.

A recent poll by YouGov, posted to Twitter (above) today, shows that people in Britain are the second most willing of any nation to take the Covid-19 vaccine

A recent poll by YouGov, posted to Twitter (above) today, shows that people in Britain are the second most willing of any nation to take the Covid-19 vaccine

A recent poll by YouGov, posted to Twitter (above) today, shows that people in Britain are the second most willing of any nation to take the Covid-19 vaccine

More than a third (35 per cent) said they would be likely to change their mind if they had more information about a vaccine’s effectiveness, compared with 18 per cent of white respondents.

RSPH chief executive Christina Marriott previously said: ‘It is highly concerning that both those living in poorer areas and those from minority ethnic communities are less likely to want the vaccine.

‘However, it is not surprising. We have known for years that different communities have different levels of satisfaction in the NHS and more recently we have seen anti-vaccination messages have been specifically targeted at different groups, including different ethnic or religious communities.

‘But these are exactly the groups which have suffered most through Covid.

‘They continue to be most at risk of getting ill and most at risk of dying. So the Government, the NHS and local public health must rapidly and proactively work with these communities.’

BAME Britons ‘are four times more likely to have had Covid-19’

Black and Asian Britons are up to four times more likely to have had already fought off the coronavirus, official data suggested in the summer.

A government-run surveillance scheme, which tested 36,000 people across England, revealed 4.5 per cent of white people had developed antibodies — substances created by the immune system in response to specific pathogens.

In comparison, the rate was 12.2 per cent for Asian Brits, 7.7 per cent for black people and as high as 16.7 per cent for other ethnic groups, according to the report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Results of swab tests — which tell if someone is currently infected and not if they have had it in the past — showed a similar discrepancy between ethnicity, with between 0.64 and 0.69 per cent of black and Asian people ever testing positive for the coronavirus.

Just 0.30 per cent of white people swabbed between April 26 and June 27 last year tested positive for the disease. 

Statisticians warned the findings do not prove for certain that people of BAME backgrounds are at greater risk of being infected.

But they add to the mountain of evidence that has found people of BAME backgrounds are more likely to catch Covid-19 and become seriously ill or die from it than white people.

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