Nadhim Zahawi, the Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment has praised the role of churches in supporting the roll out of the COVID vaccine and urged church leaders to continue to educate themselves so that they can inform their congregations. The Minister was speaking at an online Give Hope campaign event, organised by YourNeighbour. The event which also featured medics and church leaders aimed to encourage a more balanced conversation around the COVID-19 vaccine and to tackle much of the misinformation that has caused distrust, particularly in black majority communities and churches.
“85% of adults say they will or are likely to take the vaccine, but the 15% who are hesitant skew heavily to Black African, Black Caribbean and Asian communities Through collaboration with local government, community leaders and faith leaders we can share best practice. We want every eligible person to benefit from a free vaccine, regardless of their ethnicity or religious beliefs. Effective vaccines are the best way to protect people from coronavirus and will save thousands of lives.”
The YourNeighbour Give Hope initiative was launched last week with the support of Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham and Pastor Agu Irukwu (Jesus House), the Bishop of Dover, The Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Commissioner Anthony Cotterill from the Salvation Army, Gavin Calver, CEO of Evangelical Alliance and other senior church leaders. Organisers hope the campaign will both champion the work of local churches across various issues including vulnerable children and mental wellbeing, but also encourage church leaders, particularly within the black community, to have the conversation with their congregations and in their communities to dispel fake news, allay fears and come together to give hope and hasten the end of COVID-19.
“Church is a place of trust and church leaders have been doing incredible work -thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have been doing. If you, as church leaders, feel yourself you have asked the questions and have received the answers, you can share that with your congregation. It’s a more powerful message if they hear it from you. We are hugely grateful for the efforts of local churches in promoting the Covid-19 vaccines across the country, and we recognise and support the vital role Churches play in helping to reach our communities.”
The Rt Revd Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham and Chair of the YourNeighbour Advisory Group commented,
“The development of a number of COVID vaccines is miraculous, an answer to our prayers. Local communities encouraging one another are key in helping everyone understand why being vaccinated is important for everyone when their opportunity comes. Faith communities and faith leaders have a specific role to play in this. I am delighted to be able to play a small part offering national and local encouragement.”
The chief executive of NHS England has described “genuine and deep concern” that uptake of COVID -19 vaccines may be lower among minority ethnic groups. A recent poll of 2000 UK adults by the Royal Society for Public Health found that three quarters (76%) of people overall would willingly have a COVID vaccination—but this fell to 57% of respondents from minority ethnic backgrounds.
Churches are being offered a range of resources to help them engage their communities in the conversation at www.yourneighbour.org.