Covid vaccine misinformation targeting South Asian communities debunked

Friday, 15th January 2021, 1:12 pm
Updated Friday, 15th January 2021, 1:12 pm

Medical professionals in the UK have expressed concerns that some communities are being targeted or particularly impacted by Covid vaccine misinformation.

Members of the South Asian community, in particular, are being targeted with false information about the vaccine, which is leading them to believe that receiving the jab would be in conflict with their religious or cultural values.

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‘A big concern’

A GP involved with the NHS’ anti-disinformation efforts has described the issue as “a big concern” and said that community leaders and role models are being drafted in to help combat the spread of misinformation.

Covid-related misinformation has been an issue throughout the pandemic, from debunked claims linking the disease to 5G towers, to farfetched claims about vaccines containing tracking devices or microchips.

But a particular strain of disinformation has been aimed at Muslims and Hindus, by spreading false claims that the vaccine contains animal products or alcohol.

Language and cultural barriers are thought to exacerbate the issue, in some cases.

‘There is no pork in the vaccine’

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Harpreet Sood of NHS England, said: "We need to be clear and make people realise there is no meat in the vaccine, there is no pork in the vaccine, it has been accepted and endorsed by all the religious leaders and councils and faith communities.

"We're trying to find role models and influencers and also thinking about ordinary citizens who need to be quick with this information so that they can all support one another because ultimately everyone is a role model to everyone.”

He added: "There's a big piece of work happening where we're translating information, we're making sure the look and feel of it reaches the populations that matter."

Religious leaders are stressing that receiving the vaccine is totally permissible for practicing Hindus and Muslims.

A campaign which has been joined by around 100 mosques across the UK will try to counter vaccine disinformation, in part by using Friday sermons to urge members of the congregation to have the jab.

Chair of the group organising the campaign, the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB), Qari Asim, said: “There should be no hesitation in taking [the vaccine] from a moral perspective. It is our ethical duty to protect ourselves and others from harm.”