Covid-19: Faith leaders quiz West Midlands NHS experts on vaccination roll-out in region - The Coventry Observer

8th Aug, 2022

Covid-19: Faith leaders quiz West Midlands NHS experts on vaccination roll-out in region

A COVENTRY GP has revealed that 108,000 Covid-19 vaccinations have so far been administered across Coventry and Warwickshire.

Dr Sarah Raistrick, who works at Willenhall Primary Care Centre, Coventry, was one of four regional health experts speaking at an online roundtable for faith leaders and community groups chaired by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street yesterday (Monday February 1).

As Chair of Coventry and Rugby NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Raistrick reported that the Covid vaccination roll-out programme in Coventry and Warwickshire had been “very good” with 108,000 vaccines delivered.

She said: “Eighty-five per cent of our over-80s have received a vaccine and as vaccines were going ahead over the weekend the number is still going up. Of the over-75’s 80% have now been vaccinated. Those with shielding conditions or severely vulnerable are now awaiting their notification. Coventry was the first place in the world to use the Pfizer vaccine in a hospital setting. It was very exciting to do this locally.

“As well as the hospital we have 20 vaccination centres including village halls, shopping centres, golf clubs and a couple of pharmacies.”

In addition to Birmingham’s Millennium Point, she said a new mass vaccination clinic has just opened at the National Agricultural and Exhibition Centre (NAEC) Stoneleigh. Although it had not been possible to take up offers to open vaccination centres at Coventry Cathedral and mosques in the city, she said they may open as testing centres in the future.

Dr Raistrick added: “All care homes, bar a couple where there has been significant outbreaks of Covid-19, have been offered the vaccine.”

Yesterday’s webinar between 2pm – 3pm aimed to share the latest update on the vaccination roll-out in the West Midlands and answer any concerns about the vaccine.

The hour-long meeting was open to the public with invitations sent out via faith and community groups and attendees able to ask questions in a live Q&A.

Issues raised included the first case of the contagious South African variant of coronavirus in the West Midlands found in Walsall this week.

Dr Justin Varney, National Strategic Advisor on Health and Work at Public Health England told the meeting the government was rolling out a rapid response with enhanced testing in the affected postcode. He said thousands of variants had been discovered since Covid first emerged but this variant was “more infectious with a slightly higher rate of hospitalisation”. He said they know the vaccine works “but not quite as well”.

Questions were asked about whether it was safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to have the Covid vaccine. Dr Ash Banerjee, a Screening and Immunisation Lead, for Public Health England and NHS England (West Midlands) said there was a “precautionary principle” not to give these women the vaccine, but advised patients to speak to their GP, particularly if their job was high risk.

He said there is no evidence the vaccine is unsafe if you are pregnant, but more evidence is needed before mums-to-be can be routinely offered the vaccine.

Dr Raistrick said there had been a couple of cases in Coventry where care workers had discovered they were pregnant after having the vaccine. She said: “It’s not something we see as a problem. There are no medical grounds for not continuing with a pregnancy.”

The panel of medics also talked about vaccine arrangements for the vulnerable, housebound and people with disabilities, who can request to have vaccinations at home. People with mobility issue can drive to a Covid-safe vaccination centre and remain in the car while their jab is administered.

Also on the panel was Sheikh Nuru Mohammed, imam of Al Abbas Mosque in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, which opened last month as a new UK vaccination hub, amid fears uptake is too low in BAME groups.

He shared his experiences with the group, describing how the centre was advocated by a group of pharmacists who are “proud members of our mosque”.

The response has so far been “incredible,” he said.

He said: “Our motivation was very simple, a sense of responsibility. We owe it to the NHS. We cannot repay them. Most importantly the vaccine will save lives and get us back to some kind of normal.

“Personally, I have received my first jab. I work closely with the vulnerable – many of them have died.”

Sheikh Nuru Mohammed firmly believes it is important for faith leaders to dispel ‘fake news’ about the vaccine on social media and WhatsApp. “I get 5 – 10 calls a week asking, ‘do you trust this vaccine?’ Some feel the vaccine’s ingredients aren’t halal. It’s crucial that we send a strong, positive signal toward the vaccine among our community.”

Community faith leaders across the West Midlands are encouraged to come forward to local NHS and Public Health England representatives, with feedback about any barriers faced or with any medical questions about the vaccine.

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