Birmingham: Faith leaders from Birmingham are urging members of the city’s Muslim community to continue accepting the Covid vaccination ahead of health and safety measures being relaxed on July 19, coinciding with national Eid celebrations.
Eid al-Adha is expected to begin on Tuesday 20 July with celebrations lasting all week but there are still some members of the Muslim community who haven’t had the vaccine.
While tens of thousands of Muslims across Birmingham have had one or both doses, there are still several factors creating obstacles for many others still awaiting a jab.
Health access issues and a lack of assistance in navigating services are some of the primary concerns being reported by members of migrant communities, especially those from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds and specifically among more vulnerable service users such as the elderly and those with underlying health problems.
Secondary factors include language barriers, but also very health compliant individuals wanting a vaccine but being digitally illiterate or not wanting to burden the NHS. Community leaders have suggested these barriers are a symptom of some service providers relying on excessive signposting instead of hands-on guidance, rather than any particular patient inadequacy.
Community leaders have also warned there are yet a number of the population refusing the vaccine due to conspiracy theories still being widely circulated on social media platforms such as WhatsApp.
To quash these doubts and make access easier, diverse public figureheads from the West Midlands have spent the last year working with Birmingham City Council to create public awareness videos in various languages including English, Sylheti, Bangla, Mirpuri, Urdu, Gujarati, Somali, Swahili and Shona.
Led by Citizens UK Birmingham, the campaign brought together organisations representing the Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, Eritrean, ZImbabwean, Indian and Somali communities to share advice and information on the pandemic including impact of the Covid-19 virus, lockdown, social distancing and the safety of the vaccine.
Leading the charge to get more ethnic minority communities immunised against the virus is Saidul Haque Saeed, Lead Organiser at Citizens UK Birmingham, bringing together voices representing the region’s multilingual and multicultural residents.
“There are so many vaccination videos that label and scapegoat people, we wanted a video without a judgmental tone.
“Many people from these communities want the vaccine but are just hesitant. They could be your colleagues or friends.”
Working closely with Dr. Justin Varney, Director of Public Health at Birmingham City Council, Saeed wanted to make sure the council funded project impacted the most vulnerable in society.
“We wanted to tell the story of the city and how Covid came about and affected our lives over the last 18 months.”
Birmingham city councillor Waseem Zaffar and Sheikh Nuru Mohammed, imam of Al-Abbas Islamic Centre, are two well-known faces who appear in the public message videos.
In the short video, Sheikh Nuru Mohammed explains:
“I’ve taken my vaccine at a local vaccination centre and it was very well organised. It did not hurt and after 30 minutes, I was out and about doing my daily chores.
“I know the vaccine has been scientifically tested and is safe for me to have. Even though I’ve had the vaccine, I’ll continue to follow government guidelines.”
With Eid just around the corner and thousands of families expected to meet and visit each other across the city, campaigners are urging those who haven’t yet been vaccinated to do so.
Mashkura Begum is chair at Saathi House in Aston, one of the organisations working with Citizens UK on the campaign. She has fronted videos in English and Bengali which have been widely distributed by communities in north-east Birmingham.
“The Muslim community is not unique in having some of its population who may be resistant to the idea of having a vaccination. Apprehension, reservations and doubt about the vaccination exist in communities across the city.
“However, the Muslim community is at higher risk, especially those from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds. The Bangladeshi and Pakistani community in Birmingham has been devastated by the high number of Covid cases and deaths.
“This is why we have spent much of the last 16 months creating public information campaigns specifically targeting these communities, our most recent message that the vaccine is completely safe to have.
“I’ve been vaccinated as have all of my family. With restrictions now being relaxed, I would strongly urge all Muslim individuals and families to get vaccinated if they haven’t already, especially if they are planning on gathering for Eid celebrations.”