British Asian celebrities unite for video to dispel Covid vaccine myths

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Celebrities including comedians Romesh Ranganathan and Meera Syal and cricketer Moeen Ali have made a video urging people to get the Covid vaccine.

The video was co-ordinated by Citizen Khan creator Adil Ray, who said he wanted to dispel vaccination myths for those from ethnic minority communities.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and former Conservative Party Chairman Baroness Warsi are among the others taking part.

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"We all just feel we needed to do something," Ray told the BBC.

Fake news about the vaccine, particularly in the South Asian community, has led to concerns about uptake.

Ray appears in the five-minute video alongside stars like former Coronation Street actress Shobna Gulati, who tells viewers: "We will find our way through this. And we will be united once again with our friends and our families. All we have to do is take the vaccination."

Somali-born British journalist Rageh Omaar and his ITV colleague Ranvir Singh join comedians like Sanjeev Bhaskar, Asim Chaudhry and Ranganathan to debunk common vaccine misinformation and misconceptions.

Ranganathan says: "There's no chip or tracker in the vaccine to keep watching where you go. Your mobile phone actually does a much better job of that."

After posting the video, Ray told BBC Radio Leicester: "For the British Asian and black communities, at the very beginning of the pandemic we were told they were perhaps the most vulnerable, that there was a disproportionate number of cases and even deaths.

"Even now there are a disproportionate number of deaths. But nothing was really done about it and that was really quite confusing for a lot of the community. So we felt that we've got to try and take the lead a little bit here and dispel some of these myths."

He added: "This was recorded entirely independently from the government - the only thing we did do was we went to the NHS website for the correct medical guidance."

Media caption,
Adil Ray wants lessons learned over vaccine myths

With the UK aiming to offer Covid vaccinations to every adult by autumn, vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi said confidence in the vaccines was high in the UK, with 85% saying they would accept the jab.

But he said that those who were hesitant "skew heavily" towards black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

The UK is recording the ethnicity and occupations of people who receive the vaccine and figures would be published soon, Mr Zahawi added.

Mosques as vaccine centres

Last month, a poll commissioned by the Royal Society of Public Health suggested 57% of black, Asian and minority ethnic people would be happy to have the coronavirus vaccine, compared with 79% of white people.

Dr Harpreet Sood, who is leading an NHS anti-disinformation drive, recently said fake news was likely to be causing some people from the UK's South Asian communities to reject the vaccine.

Such warnings have led the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board to urge places of worship and community hubs to be used as vaccination centres in an attempt to inspire confidence.

The board's chairman, Imam Qari Asim, said: "As an imam, my message is simple - do not trust 'fake news', verify before you amplify."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
The Al Abbas Mosque in Birmingham is being used as a Covid vaccination centre

Many mosques are using their Friday sermons to urge people to have the jab, while some imams are sharing photos of themselves getting the jab on social media.

Meanwhile, the government has announced £23m funding for a network of "community champions" to spread accurate information and provide support for people in at-risk groups including older people, disabled people and ethnic minorities.

On Monday, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick visited the UK's first vaccination centre to be opened in a mosque, at Al-Abbas Islamic Centre in Birmingham.

"It is absolutely brilliant to see faith communities like this stepping up and playing their part in the vaccine programme," Mr Jenrick said.

"We have to build trust, ensure that we counter misinformation and ensure that everyone, regardless of their faith, regardless of what community they're from, gets access to the programme."

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