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GP ‘personally calling’ every vulnerable patient who has yet to take up offer of Covid vaccine

by Jess Hacker
24 February 2021

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A GP is improving uptake of the Covid vaccine in her community by personally phoning every eligible patient who has yet to take up the offer of a vaccination.

Dr Farzana Hussain, a GP partner at the Project Surgery, East London, began calling patients last week to provide ‘reassurance and reliable advice’ to members of communities with lower vaccination rates.

She said: ‘I’m phoning everyone at my practice who is eligible but yet to get the vaccine to talk to them about why and have already reached more than 50 people aged 65 and older so far, with many of them now looking to take up the invite.’

The uptake in Dr Hussain’s Newham practice is lower than the national average of 90%, which she said is linked in partto the community’s ethnically diverse population.

Community-specific reassurance

Dr Hussain said that ‘in the vast majority of cases there is a hesitancy rather than outright rejection’ of the vaccine.

According to Dr Hussain, one piece of misinformation spreading in her local communities, which also has a particular impact on women, is around fertility.

‘This disinformation comes from a real sense of shame that not being able to bear children brings and is a particular issue among women from African and Asian backgrounds,’ she said.

‘They would refuse the vaccine if there was a 1% chance of that happening, but I want to reassure people that there is no evidence of this at all.’

Dr Hussain has also encountered patients whose uncertainty was based on religious grounds, including those who were uncertain as to whether a vaccine would break fasting during Ramadan, which is expected to begin on 12 April.

Dr Hussain, who is a practising Muslim, said: ‘Getting an injection does not break the fast – it’s not nutrition. There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t have it.’

She added that the Koran ‘says saving your life is the most important thing, to save one life is to save the whole of humanity. It’s a responsibility of a practising Muslim to take their vaccine’.

Other concerns patients shared with Dr Hussain included the belief that animal products were used in the vaccine, and the speed with which it was developed.

‘But more than 13 million people in England have had it now, and it’s great to be able to say that with proof there are no issues,’ she said.

A Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) study, published December, found 57% of BAME respondents were ‘likely to accept’ a Covid-19 vaccine if advised to by a health professional, compared with 79% of those from white backgrounds.

Meanwhile, a study led by OpenSafely found that 86% of white people aged 70 to 79 were vaccinated by 11 February, compared with only 55% among black people of the same age, and 73% among people from South Asian backgrounds.