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    BAME communities in Milton Keynes urged to take life-saving vaccine and ignore the 'fake news'

    Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities in Milton Keynes are being urged to take the life-saving vaccine and ignore misinformation.

    It comes as new research shows that BAME communities, particularly Bangladeshi and Pakistani, are hesitant about receiving it.

    This is even though data suggests people from South Asian backgrounds are more likely to die with COVID-19 after being admitted to hospital. 

    Many rumours are circulating surrounding the jab which are prevalent amongst the South Asian community. These myths are primarily spread on Whatsapp, and include that the vaccine contains meat substances, ingredients derived from cows, or that it can alter your DNA - all of which are untrue. 

    A spokesperson for the Royal Society For Public Health previously told the BBC that anti-vaccination messages have been "specifically targeted" at some ethnic communities.

    This has led to a decrease in vaccine uptake amongst these communities, especially since the groups concerned are very close-knit and likely to further spread the information.

    The Government is "very concerned" about the low uptake amongst BAME Communities. And the Royal College of GPs is calling for a nationwide campaign, backed by faith leaders and prominent BAME public figures, to try to increase vaccine take-up.

    The Deputy Mayor of Milton Keynes, Cllr Mohammed Khan, is concerned that the rumours about the vaccine are putting off older, more vulnerable people from the Bangladeshi and Hindu communities.

    He said: “Fake news is saying the jab contains a meat substance. This is completely untrue. It is circulating as fake news and is putting some older people off from getting vaccinated.”

    Cllr Khan, who will be the Mayor of Milton Keynes for 2021-22, is also concerned that COVID-19 is impacting the South Asian community more than other communities because families are often multi-generational.

    He continued: "Many South Asian families are multi-generational with grandparents and children sharing the same home. I would urge families to ensure that they adopt protection measures such as masks and trying to keep distances when at home. It’s not easy when families share a home, but we need to do all we can to minimise the spread of the virus.”

    It has emerged this week that 91% of the UK's jabs have been given to white people. Just 5% have been given to Asian people, 2% to black people, and less than 1% to those who are mixed-race. 

    White people are more than twice as likely to have accepted the vaccine compared to black people, and three times as likely compared to those from a mixed background - which experts put down to misinformation being spread. 

    The NHS and its healthcare providers have since been trying to raise awareness and prevent false information. Dr Harpreet Soodh, from NHS England, told the BBC that health officials have been working with South Asian communities in particular to share the facts. 

    He 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."

    In 2020, Milton Keynes Council passed a motion regarding how extra support should be provided for BAME communities as part of the council's COVID-19 Recovery Strategy. 

    Cllr Andy Reilly, Lib Dem spokesperson for Health and Adult Social Care, brought the motion to full council. 

    He is also urging all BAME communities to accept the vaccine.  

    Cllr Riley said: "BAME communities have been hard hit by covid. They are more likely to catch the virus and often suffer more from it. So it's really important that members of minority ethnic communities take the opportunity to get vaccinated when they are offered an appointment. It's the best way to protect themselves and their families."

    The city's Deputy Mayor, Cllr Khan, has urged all residents to stay safe, and "take up the vaccine when it is offered". His mother, who is in her eighties, has received the vaccine and Cllr Khan will too receive it when it is his turn. 

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