Mosque turned into pop-up vaccination centre to encourage take-up from Muslim community

muslim women speaking to a medical professional
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A mosque has been turned into a pop-up coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccination centre. The move is intended to help ease mistrust in the Muslim community about getting the jab.

Misinformation

The makeshift clinic has been set up at the London Muslim Centre. Young children attended with their grandparents and relatives aged over 68 in the bitter winter chill to get the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

It comes just days after local medical officials in Tower Hamlets said only three out of 200 people who’d been contacted had turned up for an appointment. This was according to Asad Jaman of the East London Mosque.

Jaman said misinformation, confusion, and negative online information had created concerns about the vaccine. Some people even suggested that the coronavirus is not real.

The East London Mosque in Whitechapel
The East London Mosque in Whitechapel (Yui Mok/PA)

He said:

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We are telling the people that it is wise for you to take the vaccine because you are not only helping yourself but you are helping the community and beyond. As a Muslim, it is very important that we give time and support the preservation of life.

Protection

The urgent need for the service in the inner city region was spotted after officials in the East London borough of Tower Hamlets saw significant levels of vaccine hesitancy. This was particularly the case among its large ethnic minority community. Posters to promote the clinic sought to reassure the pensioners that “the Covid vaccination is the best protection for you and your family”. This was in light of fake messages which have spread concern among the religious community.

Jaman said people have been scared because the vaccine was developed so rapidly. And they felt there must be side-effects due to that. But medics and mosque officials were on hand at the clinic to help quell any fears. The mosque, which has a position of trust within the community, managed to give 100 jabs within the first hour of opening the clinic. It was aiming for 400 injections by the end of the session.

It’s hoped the clinic, along with the medical experts who were there to give advice, can build trust that the vaccine is safe and effective.

Experts also state that here are no animal or egg products in the vaccine, which is vegan, halal and kosher friendly.

People attend a pop-up Covid-19 vaccination centre at the East London Mosque in Whitechapel
People attend a pop-up coronavirus vaccination centre at the mosque (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Campaign

Muslim GPs, imams, and scholars have also been trying to get the message out to the local community to get vaccinated. It’s believed that a targeted community campaign like this is needed amid fears misinformation is stopping some people from taking the injection.

There was a 6% drop among people who had intended to take the vaccine after they had been exposed to misinformation about it, according to a London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine study.

Those attending the vaccination clinic at the London Muslim Centre had pre-booked appointments through a council helpline. The centre is part of East London Mosque in Whitechapel.

It was run by AT Medics, a local partnership between GPs from Whitechapel Health Centre, East London Mosque and Tower Hamlets Council.

The helpline takes queries from residents but also calls and books in eligible residents who haven’t yet taken up the offer of vaccination. The mosque is offering to be a community vaccine centre for as long as is needed due to its place in the community and the levels of trust.

People attend a temporary coronavirus vaccination centre at the East London Mosque, in Whitechapel
The mosque is offering to be a community vaccine centre for as long as is needed (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Initiative

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs, who branded misinformation about the vaccine as “dangerous”, said:

We need people to get the vaccination because the community has suffered very badly from the virus and we need to get people on the road to recovery…

The reluctance is due to a mixture of things. There are clearly people who are opposed or there has been word of mouth that has made them nervous. We need to get opinion formers, neighbours and community activists to get the message across that there is nothing dangerous in this vaccine.

Omar Din, chief executive of AT Medics, said:

We are privileged to be partnering with East London Mosque to deliver vaccinations in the community. As local GPs, we’ve been very close to the challenges of patient vaccination uptake in Tower Hamlets, and whilst we’ve already vaccinated over 6,000 local people in the past two weeks, we hope this initiative will encourage many more patients to come forward when invited.

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