V for #Vaccination! Covid clinic hosted at London Colney Mosque
- Credit: Raihaanah Ahmed
A special pop-up Covid vaccination clinic has been underway at London Colney Islamic Centre today.
The one-off clinic at the Islamic centre is part of a drive by the STAVACS (St Albans Covid vaccination programme) team from Batchwood Hall to reduce health inequalities and ensure COVID-19 vaccination is easily accessible across the whole local community.
Male and female areas were made available within the mosque, with both male and female GPs leading the vaccinations. Separate access and exit points were also in operation, and volunteers speaking a range of languages - including Sylheti, Urdu and Arabic - were available to walk patients through the vaccination process.
Zoe Matthews of STAVACS told the Herts Ad: "Raihaanah Ahmed of Sopwell Community Trust has been a huge support in liaising with the Islamic Centre, who have kindly allowed us to work within this setting.
"SCT have been invaluable in providing information to users of the Islamic Centre, in a range of languages, as a trusted source within their community."
Raihaanah, alongside her work as trustee at SCT, is also leading the NHS national campaign V for #Vaccinated - which launched today - to increase the uptake of vaccination, particularly in the Bangladeshi community.
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Celebrating that community-led efforts, just like this one, have helped increase uptake in priority groups 1-9 from 15 per cent to over 75 per cent, the campaign is encouraging people to share their V for #Vaccinated pictures online, explaining why it is important to you to get vaccinated.
Some famous faces will also accompany the campaign, including Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain and chef Asma Khan.
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"We know, and it's been hammered home to us, that the BAME community has been disproportionately affected, but why is that?" Raihaanah said. "It's because there's a huge volume of BAME people working in the NHS, in the restaurant trade; they're in public-facing roles.
She continued to share that restauranteurs are welcoming vaccinations to ensure they can protect their own families, see their favourite customers and welcome back dining in customers.
She added: "When we all work together, we can do so many great things.
"I want to dispel this myth that certain aspects of the community are hard to reach; I just don't feel like that's the case. I think it just takes a couple of people to come forward and do the work, basically!"
The team based at Batchwood have also hosted specialist vaccination sessions to cater to all members of the St Albans community, including a drive-thru session for shielding patients, home visits for housebound patients, and outreach sessions to homeless persons shelters, Gypsy and Roma Traveller communities and domestic abuse services.
St Albans and Harpenden GP Federation teamed up with Cllr Mohammed Iqbal Zia to produce promotional material - 'Let's talk about the COVID-19 vaccine!' - to further encourage take-up in the Islamic community, with the information also available in Pashto, Pahari/Hindku and Urdu.
Zoe continued: "We continue to engage with other under-represented groups, and are keen to offer even more pop-up sessions within the community, to further increase vaccine access and uptake across St Albans and district."
Raihaanah also took the time to praise the clinicians on site: "I don't have enough good things to say about the GP team. They're obviously great at their job, and they're so good with their bedside manner."
London Colney Islamic Centre, Sopwell Community Trust and STAHFED are working together to hold a second pop-up vaccination clinic during Ramadan, which starts on April 12.
"There's been a lot of questions as to whether it's permissible to take the vaccination during Ramadan, and we think it's going to send a really strong message if it's held in the mosque, during Ramadan, while everyone's fasting," Raihaanah said.
STAHFED is eager to ensure vaccination is easily accessible to all patients, and encourages those from specialist organisations, community groups or local faith organisations to get in touch to discuss how uptake among the wider community can be increased.