By Grainne Cuffe, local democracy reporter
Southwark Council is hosting a webinar in a bid to ease concerns about being vaccinated against Covid-19.
Although the majority of people offered a vaccine have taken it, there is still reluctance among some communities.
Figures show that Black, Asian, and ethnic minority groups, who are more at risk of serious illness from Covid-19, are more wary about being vaccinated.
Among those aged 70 to 79, 86 per cent of white people received their first jab it by February 11.
But by the same point only 55 per cent of Black people in that age group had received it, 68 per cent of people with mixed heritage, and 73 per cent of people from South Asian backgrounds.
There are several reasons thought to be behind the reluctance, including individual and group experiences of healthcare in general, having personal experience of being treated differently or ignored when seeking health care help in the past, and under-representation in clinical trials.
Disinformation about the vaccine is also widespread on social media.
In a bid to tackle the problem, Southwark is inviting residents to the free webinar on March 1, where a panel of people from the council, Public Health England, the NHS, and faith organisations are set to discuss concerns, answer questions, and debunk any myths.
Cllr Evelyn Akoto, cabinet member for public health and community safety at Southwark Council, said: “We are working closely with the NHS as they deliver the Covid-19 vaccine programme in Southwark, which is our best protection against the virus.
“We know many residents have jumped at the chance of protecting themselves and their loved ones, while others are more cautious especially in light of some highly concerning disinformation circulating about the vaccine on social media and online.
“This free borough-wide webinar is the first in a series of community conversations about the vaccine, where residents can discuss their concerns and get answers to their questions from a panel of leaders from healthcare, the council and faith organisations.
“We hope this will help residents separate facts from fiction so they feel confident in making an informed choice when the vaccine is offered to them.”
Professor Kevin Fenton, PHE London regional director said: “Vaccines are now a key part of our fight against this pandemic.
“The global response to developing and distributing these highly effective vaccines is like nothing we’ve seen before.
“Now that they are available in the UK, the priority is to protect as many Londoners as possible, reducing the risk of severe disease and death.
“Too many Londoners have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, paying with our physical health, mental wellbeing, livelihoods and lives. The vaccine gives us the best opportunity to put an end to this terrible disease.
“While more than 1.7 million doses have been given in London so far, we understand some of our communities are still unsure or have questions they would like answered.
“We want everyone to be confident in their choice to take up a vaccine, and events like these are crucial for addressing concerns, answering questions and sharing information. I am looking forward to the conversation.”
Confirmed panel members include Cllr Evelyn Akoto, Professor Kevin Fenton, Dame Donna Kinnair, Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary, Dr Olufemi Osonuga, director of North Southwark Primary Care Network, Kirsten Watters, deputy director of Public Health at the council, and Rt Revd Dr Woyin Karowei Dorgu,13th Bishop of Woolwich and a former doctor.
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