London Mayor adds voice to importance of Covid vaccinations

19th Mar 2021
London Mayor adds voice to importance of Covid vaccinations

(Photo credit: Philip Rock/Anadolu Agency)

Ahmed J Versi

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is encouraging everyone to have Covid-19 vaccinations after publicly having his first jab himself last month as an example for all. “I took both the flu jab and Covid jab publicly to encourage others to take the vaccines.

The reason is that when people see you having flu or Covid vaccine it encourages them to take the vaccines,” Khan said. In a telephone interview with The Muslim News, he said that it was unfortunate that the flu jab take-up rate is not as high as it should be but that over the last few decades they have “saved tens of millions of lives and they are incredibly safe.”

“We are seeing a similar pattern with Covid-19 vaccine. What will come out of this awful pandemic is that it would be important to have vaccination on a regular basis,” the Mayor said. “I think this awful pandemic will educate people that the vaccine will save their lives”.

Khan is, among several high-profile figures, including celebrities, ethnic MPs and others, adding their voices to the importance of taking the vaccination during the current roll-out, with the Covid virus already killing up to 140,000 people and more in the UK and over 2.5 million worldwide.

He said that many people in the White and ethnic communities have been reluctant to take the Covid vaccination. The reason, he believes, is “because the Government has failed to reach out to them”.
His advice firstly to the Government and NHS should be to make sure vaccines are “available near the community” as have been rolled out in mosques, temples, gurdwaras, churches and other places of worship as well as in mass hubs, hospitals, medical centres and pharmacies.

“Secondly, the Government, on a regular basis, is using the language that is inflammatory and divisive. Over a period of time, those words and actions have consequences and so people from certain communities distrust the Government because they have seen how the Government has behaved in the past,” the Mayor also warned. “That is one of the reasons why some minority and Muslim communities are not receptive when the Government and politicians are asking them to do stuff. I am pleased the Government is realising that and is using other trusted message carriers to get the message across”.

“British Muslim people have seen for the last ten years how this Government has treated their community. I can understand the suspicion that they may have and that is why I have been saying to the Government you are not trusted in these communities, you have got to use others to get the message across,” he added. But learning from their mistakes, Khan praised the changed attitude.

“To give the Government credit, they are doing that. You are going to see more Muslim doctors, pharmacists, nurses, cricketers like Moeen Ali and others coming out explaining the importance of the vaccine because other people in the Government are not trusted or respected in these communities.”

He did not think it was patronising to use well-known figures to tell the communities to take the vaccine, saying there had been lots of videos targeting everyone on hesitancy, Black people, White people, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities.

The additional messages to the BAME “are important because we know in these communities there is mistrust in the drug and pharmaceutical companies and not trust of people in power and influence.” Also, many people do not watch mainstream media.

“It is not patronising because these vaccines will save lives. Here is my concern, on the one hand, we see these communities who are suffering disproportionally from the pandemic. On the other hand, they are less likely to receive the vaccine. It is a double whammy.” The Mayor also praised the extended role played by pharmacies during the pandemic in having face-to-face consultations when GPs were mainly holding many by phone.

With mayoral elections due in May, Khan said it was up to the Government who said they should go ahead and supported their decision, adding that they needed to take place safely. He also exampled elections held in Paris last summer, the US in November and Georgia in January. “It is possible to have a safe election in May. People like me have got to understand that we can’t campaign in the same way we used to – so I can’t keep knocking on doors as it is not safe; we can’t have normal husting.”

“So, we have to be innovative in how we campaign. So, for example, we do phone-in using volunteers and use social media. But we expect newspapers like The Muslim News to carry across social media and website because people rely on social media and websites rather than face to face.”Khan, who is well ahead in opinion polls to be re-elected, said that five years ago the London elections, according to some, was the most Islamophobic and racist campaign that we have ever seen.

“I hope this time the Conservative candidate and their campaign isn’t Islamophobic. This time I hope the election campaign will be based on policies, values and ideas. I hope it is a more positive campaign and I want a bigger turnout. I want people to come out and vote safely and vote for Sadiq Khan”.

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