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Famous faces from the nation’s favourite cookery shows have joined forces with the NHS to tackle COVID vaccine hesitancy and boost uptake.
Great British Bake Off star Nadiya Hussain, Asma Khan from Netflix’s Chef’s Table and MasterChef’s Saliha Mahmood are all backing the vaccine drive focused on the British Bangladeshi community.
Launching the campaign in a video message, Nadiya, winner of the Great British Bake Off in 2015, said: “Education is empowering. By educating ourselves around vaccination it allows us to encourage our family members, loved ones and communities to get the vaccine.”
76,106 people – 15% – of Bangladeshi ethnicity have so far received a first dose of the vaccine in England.
The stars are sharing their messages as part of an international vaccination campaign, backed by the United Nations, aiming to increase vaccine confidence.
The initiative builds on the recent campaign led by Adil Ray and other celebrities such as Meera Syal and Moeen Ali, which aimed to dispel misinformation and increase vaccine confidence amongst South Asian Communities.
Dr Nikki Kanani, national director for primary care at NHS England and practicing GP, said: “We need to continue to build confidence in the vaccine amongst certain communities, and we are working hard to improve uptake, delivering vaccines at faith and community centres and providing information in multiple languages.
“I am so grateful for the support brought by Nadiya, Asma and Saliha, who can help us to reassure people that the vaccine is safe, effective, and our best way out of the pandemic.”
The NHS vaccination programme, the biggest in health service history, has jabbed more than 20 million people across the UK in a matter of weeks including more than 17 million in England alone.
That included nine out of 10 people aged 65 and over but the NHS wants to encourage as many eligible people as possible to take up the offer, including those from black, Asian and ethnic minority groups.
Dr Saliha Mahmood Ahmed works for the NHS and won MasterChef in 2017. She said: “It is imperative we talk the language of these communities. As an NHS doctor but also as a woman and mother from this community I hope to use this platform to spread a positive message around vaccination as far as possible.”
Asma Khan, chef of Darjeeling Express, added: “Food is at the heart of our communities and our families and the quicker we get vaccinated the quicker we will be able to enjoy meals together with our loved ones.”
The NHS offered everyone in the first four priority groups a vaccine by the middle of February, in line with government targets. Staff are now working through the remaining cohorts, with 60-63-year-olds receiving their invites this week.
People who have received a letter inviting them for a jab can log on to the national booking service at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination and choose from 107 large-scale vaccination centres or 195 pharmacy led sites.
Anyone unable to book online can call 119 free of charge, anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week.
British-Bangladeshi Dr Na’eem Ahmed, NHS consultant and lead for the NHS’s staff COVID-19 vaccination drive, said: “As the son of a restaurateur, I know first-hand of their positive influence; restaurants mean much more than just providing a meal to be enjoyed. They provide jobs and support local good causes.
“Having the purveyors of the nation’s favourite dish supporting our national treasure, the NHS, is wonderful. The data is clear; vaccines save lives. Getting vaccinated will protect yourself and loved ones. It also means we can share a table again – this is what our community looks forward to.”
Pasha Khandaker, MBE of the Bangladeshi Caterers Association said: “Bangladeshi restaurants and restaurant owners are at the heart of communities. We represent 12,000 restaurants and contribute £5 billion to the British Economy.
“The sooner we all get vaccinated, we can get back to things that we love. I have been vaccinated and urge all members of the British-Bangladeshi community to do so too!”
Health officials are working to tackle the issue of vaccine hesitancy within ethnic communities in the following ways:
- Working with social media firms and Government to tackle misinformation at the source and stop it spreading.
- Engaging with community and faith leaders to gain their endorsement of the vaccine.
- Translating all information on the vaccine into 20 different languages.
- Encouraging those uncertain to seek advice from trusted, reputable sources, such as NHS.uk or a healthcare clinician, such as their GP or local pharmacist.
- Setting up vaccination sites at places of worship for ease of access and in collaboration with work with faith leaders.
- Using video and infographics to break down information and share in an accessible way online.
Vaccine appointments are staggered to allow for social distancing and people are being asked not to turn up early to avoid creating queues.
Everyone will receive a health status check and a pre-vaccination assessment before they have their jab.
The NHS made history when Maggie Keenan became the first person in the world to be protected against coronavirus outside of a clinical trial when she received the Pfizer vaccine at Coventry Hospital on December 8.
The NHS was also the first health system to deliver the new Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine when Brian Pinker, 82, was vaccinated on January 4.