LEADING BLACK and minority ethnic health experts from the NHS Race and Health Observatory addressed key concerns, facts and misinformation over Covid-19 and vaccines in a live webinar which attracted over 870 people on February 11.
The in-depth session – aimed primarily at black and minority ethnic communities – allowed panellists to present evidence and debunk some of the popular misinformation and myths surrounding vaccine content including:
- Variants of the inoculations and their effectiveness
- The impact on pregnancy, issues around sterility and long term effects
- The link between Covid-19 and long standing health inequalities
- Action the Observatory is taking to close health inequality gaps
In addition, a new infographic was unveiled, developed by the NHS Race and Health Observatory. The resource is designed to provide NHS bodies and local community groups with information and advice on increasing vaccine uptake amongst minority ethnic communities.
A series of presentations and keynote addresses were delivered by Dr Chaand Nagpaul, British Medical Association, Dame Donna Kinnair, Royal College of Nursing, Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England, Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, Chief Midwifery Officer and Dr Malur Sudhanva, Consultant Virologist, King’s College NHS Foundation Trust.
Audience members were able to interact and share questions with panellists, hearing first-hand the impact the pandemic is having on GP services, doctors and nurses working on NHS frontlines and black and minority ethnic communities.
Professor Fenton, London regional director, Public Health England – cited the importance of communities understanding the public health risks and benefits of taking the vaccine, particularly as new evidence continues to emerge regularly, highlighting stark disparities and vulnerability of ethnic communities.
Professor Fenton said: “Sadly we are seeing persisting health inequalities from the virus in the second wave of the pandemic with ethnicity continuing to be a major factor in the health outcomes of communities.
“These vaccinations will save countless lives and we are very fortunate to have them. It is therefore so important that we speak directly to people about the facts and answer their questions so they feel confident about being vaccinated and can reassure friends and relatives.”
The impact of the pandemic on the medical profession both from the local GP and hospital perspectives was addressed by Dr Nagpaul.
Dr Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “Covid-19 has exacerbated the pre-existing structural inequalities that permeate our society and the NHS alike. The virus has taken a heavy toll on BAME healthcare workers, with almost 9 in 10 doctors who have died from Covid-19 having come from non-white backgrounds.
“Throughout the pandemic we have heard from BAME doctors who felt unprotected, unsupported and unable to speak up, exposing a discriminatory culture within the NHS that the BMA has long said needs addressing.
“The urgent need to end the longstanding inequalities within our health service is more clear now than ever. We must redouble our efforts to tackle these problems at their roots, and demonstrate to our international and BAME colleagues how much we value their commitment and dedication.”
The impact on the nursing workforce and long term mental health and wellbeing support, required post Covid, was also addressed.
Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The pandemic has showcased the best of nursing and has promoted our profession in the public consciousness.
“Yet the unprecedented pressure has left many exhausted and their resilience continues to be seriously tested.
“Now nurses are playing a leading role in the vaccination programme it is important to have conversations with our patients in our communities, and not to dismiss their thoughts or beliefs.
“We should engage in a conversation that fully explores their beliefs and provides evidence to combat misconceptions.”
Designed as an information ‘giving and sharing’ event, the webinar was delivered by a panel of highly qualified and respected black and minority ethnic health experts selected for the target audience.
Dr Naqvi, director of the NHS Race and Health Observatory added: “The Observatory’s vaccine webinar focused on providing factual information about the vaccines which we hope will support communities, individuals and women of child-bearing age, to make reasoned decisions over taking the vaccine, based upon evidence and facts presented by experts.
“Covid-19 vaccines are set to get us out of this pandemic and increasing the uptake of the vaccine amongst minority ethnic communities will require the sterling efforts of GPs, nurses, pharmacists as well as local community and religious leaders.”
The session was hosted by Special Advisor to the NHS Race and Health Observatory, Yvonne Coghill CBE.