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A pharmacy-led vaccination site in a Birmingham mosque “is working” in its campaign against vaccine hesitancy among the local black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community, the site’s lead pharmacist has said.
Pharmacists working with the Masters Group chain of pharmacies began administering vaccines from two sites — a community pharmacy site and the Al-Abbas Islamic Centre — on 21 January 2021.
Murtaza Master, director of the Masters Group, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that it applied for the sites to become designated vaccination centres as “the uptake in the BAME community is very low [and] in these communities there is a high risk of COVID”.
“We wanted to bring it home to them and embed it within the community, engage the local leaders and the local community so that they would have confidence in the whole scheme,” he said, adding that his “view would be that it is working”.
“We are doing a few hundred a day,” he continued. “The [Al-Abbas Islamic] centre we have hired from are receiving loads of calls saying: ‘Can I have the vaccination in this centre?’”.
“The system doesn’t allow them to come directly … we put the appointments out and people just book on a first come, first served basis, provided they are eligible,” he said, adding that the centre is also seeing patients walk in asking for a vaccine — “which we can’t give unless there are spares left at the end of the day”.
Master’s other pharmacy-led vaccination site is also working with the nearby Smethwick Gurdwara to encourage uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine within the BAME population.
“We’ve told them that we have this centre here. If you are the leader of the community, if you say it and if you come down yourself and have the vaccination, then the rest of the congregation is likely to be feeling more comfortable,” he said.
“If you engage the community, they have a stake in it. Perceptions change when you engage them.”
The push to increase vaccination uptake among the BAME community comes after a report published by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies on 15 January 2021 found that “vaccine hesitancy was highest in black or black British groups, with 72% stating they were unlikely/very unlikely to be vaccinated”.
“Pakistani/Bangladeshi groups were the next most hesitant ethnic group with 42% unlikely/very unlikely to be vaccinated,” it said.
Meanwhile, a report published by Public Health England in August 2020 found that “death rates from COVID-19 were higher for black and Asian ethnic groups when compared to white ethnic groups”.