A GP in London, Dr Farzana Hussain, at the Project Surgery, has launched a campaign to contact every patient who has been offered a COVID vaccination, but has yet to accept.
So far, more than 50 patients from the most at-risk groups of people have been contacted to urge them to take up the offer of the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr Hussain, who has had the vaccine, is among a number of senior medics and other public figures to raise concerns about a lack of uptake among certain ethnicities, including people of African, eastern European and south Asian heritage, and is calling on anyone with concerns to come forward for reassurance and reliable advice.
Dr Farzana Hussain said: “I want to drive out hesitancy and drive up vaccination among my patients.
“I’m phoning everyone at my practice who is eligible but yet to get the vaccine to talk to them about why and have already reached more than 50 people aged 65 and older so far, with many of them now looking to take up the invite.
“In the vast majority of cases there is a hesitancy rather than outright rejection of the vaccine.
“A range of concerns came up, including misinformation around infertility and the use of animal products, which are both completely untrue. Often people are concerned about the speed the vaccine has been developed, but more than 13 million people in England have had it now, and it’s great to be able to say that with proof there are no issues.”
The Project Surgery and the network it is part of, is one of more than 1,500 vaccination sites around the country, comprised of GP surgeries, community locations like supermarkets, museums and sports stadiums, as well as hospital hubs, between them delivering hundreds of thousands of jabs weekly.
However, the uptake at Hussain’s practice in Newham is lower than the national average of more 90%, which Dr Hussain says is in part linked to hesitancy among many people in the community’s ethnically diverse population.
Dr Hussain said: “Being a British Bangladeshi woman, the issue of hesitancy among a group who are disproportionately affected by COVID is one that really hits home.
“It’s so personal to me, people from BAME communities are dying because of misinformation; British Bangladeshis are five times more likely to die due to COVID. There was no doubt in my mind to get the vaccine in order to protect my children and make sure I am still here to look after them. I want others to make that same choice”, Hussain says.
“One older lady I spoke to was worried about long-term side effects, but after talking it through with her, and with the support of her son, and desire to see her six-year-old grandchild grow up, she changed her mind.”
Hussain believes that working with families is key and that mothers can have a huge role to play due to their influence across the family – especially in multi-generational households.