Harehills GP calls for more to be done to encourage COVID vaccine take-up in hard to reach communities

More work needs to be done in some of the city's communities where there is a low uptake of COVID vaccines, says a Harehills based GP.
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In recent weeks, there has been a drive to encourage uptake of the vaccine among the BAME communities in Leeds, and whilst this has had a positive effect - there are still thousand of people going "under the radar".

Dr Amal Paul, a GP at the Roundhay Road surgery in Harehills, said while work to encourage BAME people to take the jab was needed, it should not be the only focus for fear of creating a division and racial tensions.

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He told the Yorkshire Evening Post if you took a population figure of 100,000 and 15 per cent was BAME and 85 per cent were white, and 40 per cent of BAME people didn't take the vaccine it would equate to 3,500 people, but for the rest, if 20 per cent refuse then that is 17,000 not taking the vaccine.

Dr Amal Paul says more work still needs to be done on increasing vaccine uptake.Dr Amal Paul says more work still needs to be done on increasing vaccine uptake.
Dr Amal Paul says more work still needs to be done on increasing vaccine uptake.

Dr Paul said: "If we concentrate on the ethnic community we lose sight of another problem. There are white people not coming forward for the vaccine and we need to address that. There is a huge population who are under the radar, we are not seeing them. The other problem is if you place too much concentration on ethnic people it can be perceived as racial discrimination.

"We are in a dangerous situation and there should be a fine balance. We have to encourage the other non-vaccine takers. It could be health beliefs, personal beliefs, they don't believe the vaccine is safe, we are being implanted for control - there is a whole group of people that don't believe in vaccines. This group should be advised and taken into account."

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The take up of vaccines in December was just 25 per cent but after a lot of work with patients, the CCG, vaccination groups, the PCN and everybody understanding there was a problem it is now at 45 to 50 per cent

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He said: "We anticipated this problem back in the Autumn. There was a lot of misinformation and conspiracy theories over the vaccine and it was really going around communitiues and not just the BAME community. Before we were making phone calls to patients but now we are having phone calls from them about booking the vaccine, pros, cons and hopefully we will have more coming in."

Dr Paul, who himself has taken the vaccine, said that the cohorts were being changed again from today with the vaccine being available to more members of the Harehills community.

Over 18s with chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are eligible, as are unpaid carers, which he says, is a significant part of the Harehills demographic.

He added: "This is really something. In our community there are lots of people looking after elderly parents but could not have the vaccine. The parents were eligible but the carers were not. But, the government has taken the decision and that is a great thing.

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"The Thackray and Elland Road are big factors (in the roll-out in Leeds) but we should applaud the hard work of GPs and their staff are doing in other areas of the community. In a national crisis we can work together and take anything that is thrown to us."