Faith leaders play a “vital role” in encouraging people to get a coronavirus vaccine, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said, as he visited the UK’s first vaccination centre opened in a mosque.
Mr Jenrick met with the imam at Al-Abbas Islamic Centre in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, as well as the pharmacists and staff who run the vaccination centre and people who received their first dose of the vaccine on Saturday.
The mosque is one of dozens of new sites across the UK offering coronavirus vaccinations, with others to open at Stoneleigh Park near Kenilworth in Warwickshire, Salisbury City Hall in Wiltshire and Bath Racecourse in Somerset next week.
Mr Jenrick said: “It is absolutely brilliant to see faith communities like this stepping up and playing their part in the vaccine programme.
“We have to build trust, ensure that we counter misinformation and ensure that everyone, regardless of their faith, regardless of what community they’re from, gets access to the programme.”
Earlier this week, Blackburn Cathedral in Lancashire was fashioned into a vaccination centre which faith leaders said offered “a sign of hope” to the community.
Meanwhile, Lichfield Cathedral – Britain’s oldest three-spired cathedral – in Staffordshire, was dubbed “the most glamorous vaccine centre in Britain” by the city’s MP.
Imam Qari Asim, chairman of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, said some people who were initially hesitant about getting a vaccine have decided to get one since the site opened at Al-Abbas Islamic Centre.
Leeds-based Mr Asim, who is leading the initiative to get imams and mosques to address challenges posed by so-called anti-vaxxers, said: “We are urging places of worship and community hubs to be used as vaccination centres to inspire confidence in communities.
“As an Imam, my message is simple – do not trust ‘fake news’, verify before you amplify.
“Taking the vaccine is currently the only available solution to defeating coronavirus, to save thousands of precious lives and be with our loved ones again.”
Mr Jenrick said he hoped to see more vaccination centres open up in cathedrals, synagogues and mosques.
“Faith leaders are helping build trust in the community and saving lives by encouraging take-up of the vaccine,” he said.
“The more that we are able to do that, the quicker we will be able to lift these restrictions.”
A total of 5,526,071 Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place in England between December 8 and January 22, according to NHS England.
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