West London mosque’s pop-up vaccine centre helps bring hundreds of Covid jabs to local community
Abdurahman Sayed at the Al Manaar centre in North Kensington, which has been turning itself into a pop up vaccine centre
Doctors have hailed the success of turning one of West London’s biggest Islamic centres into a pop-up vaccination hub.
Since late January the Al Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre has helped fight off conspiracy theories about coronavirus by ensuring Londoners get the right information.
On February 7 it became one of the first London mosques to bring GPs into its halls, so that elderly North Kensington residents could feel comfortable when getting their first jab.
It’s part of a wave of mosques, churches, temples and community centres that have become temporary vaccine centres in an effort to make the jabs more accessible to communities who have felt hesitant.
Since then, 176 men and women have had a vaccine across four days that the Al Manaar has turned itself into a vaccine centre. And it hopes 150 more people will get a jab at its next session on March 28.
A man receives his first Covid vaccine at the Al Manaar centre in North Kensington during one of its pop-up vaccination sessions
“There were a lot of conspiracy theories about Covid and the vaccines and a lot of people were confused about what to believe,” said the Al Manaar’s CEO Abdurahman Sayed.
“We knew that if we didn’t help the community hear from the right people they would only hear from unhelpful third parties.
“In January we organised Zoom sessions in different languages such as Arabic and Somali and with experts in infectious diseases and GPs.
“That helped settle people’s misunderstandings and reservations. One of the GPs helped change the mind of an elderly gentleman, and he told us it felt like enough to him just to have helped that one man decide to get it.”
Dr Yasmin Razak, one of the GPs leading the project, said: “Getting vaccinated is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself and the people around you, and we are already seeing positive results with infection rates and hospital admissions dropping.”
Abdurahman Sayed is CEO of the Al Manaar centre
Mr Sayed, 52, from Ealing, said after the first pop-up vaccine session: “We had a lot of people from around our network saying it was really great.
“And people from the Al Manaar were helping to administer the vaccines… People feel much more comfortable when it’s in their community with people they know.”
Meanwhile, he disagrees with “assumptions” that people from minority ethnic backgrounds are less likely to take up the Covid vaccines.
“There was more suspicion after countries like Ireland and Denmark temporarily suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” he said. “But that kind of issue goes across the board.
“I would not endorse the assumption that people from minority ethnic backgrounds are more sceptical of the vaccines. I don’t think it would be supported by statistics.”
He continued: “There are always theories that people from left and right that create confusion, and the recipients of those theories will be left with doubt.
“I have seen some of these videos that were going around and they’re made by white doctors.”
Kensington and Chelsea Council has reported that 250 people have also been vaccinated at similar events hosted by the Holland Park Synagogue, and another pop-up vaccine venue on the Lancaster West Estate.
In West Kilburn, the Beethoven Centre on Third Avenue will also become a vaccine centre on March 28.
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