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Swansea Bay NHS staff and community leaders explain why you should get a Covid-19 vaccine

Local NHS staff and BAME community leaders have come together to share their views on the vaccine, and why you should consider getting it when the time comes. Read through what they have said below.

A young Muslim woman, wearing a black hijab and pale blue NHS scrubs, smiles at the camera. Layla Abdi is a registered learning disability nurse at Rowan House, Cardiff. She is also part of the team vaccinating patients and staff. 

Layla says: "Like many others I have worked throughout the pandemic and these unprecedented times.

"I am also a flu champion and have been helping to administer the flu vaccine for many years. This year I was asked to join the COVID-19 vaccination team to help vaccinate staff and patients against this deadly virus. The vaccines came as a silver lining for many and others greeted it with hesitancy, including myself. 

"Despite all the positive information available online, sadly the misinformation and conspiracy theories have stood out. Coming from a BAME community, I have witnessed first-hand the devastating impact of COVID-19, and the subsequent anti-vaccination messages being shared widely.

"This has resulted in a poor take up of the vaccines from members of the BAME community during the roll out of the vaccination drive. Unfortunately, this has not helped the situation as the BAME community has been disproportionally affected by COVID-19 causing thousands of lives to be lost.

"Having tested positive for the coronavirus myself and thankfully having recovered, I took it upon myself to do my own research about the vaccines and the impact it would have. Like all things in life the vaccines require the balance of risks versus benefits – particularly as we learn about the long term side effects of COVID-19.

"After taking the time to weigh up all the information available on reliable websites and speaking with colleagues, I have taken the decision to be vaccinated and I am now eagerly awaiting my appointment for my first dose. 

"I am doing this to protect myself, my family and friends, the community as well as the vulnerable patients I come in contact with on a daily basis. 

"My message to the public - especially anyone who has reservations about the vaccines available - is to please carefully consider all the information available and join me in protecting ourselves against COVID-19. 

"Let's spread the facts about the vaccines and not the virus. We’ll never truly eradicate the virus unless we are all protected and the sooner we do that, the sooner we can get back to some level of normality.''

In this profile image, a man wearing pale blue scrubs stands in front of the emergency department entranceway at Morriston Hospital. Jun Cezar Zaldua is a critical care nurse at Morriston Hospital. During the pandemic, he has been working as part of a team conducting important research into certain effects of COVID-19. Follow this link to read more about this research.

"Vaccination is an important cog in the whole mechanism of getting things back to normal.

"It is such an important task - each and everyone of us have a direct role in keeping the virus under control.

"Although there are accompanied risks, the benefits can outweigh this. I understand that there are fears and personal justifications behind getting the vaccine, which I totally respect - however, from a research perspective, these vaccines would never get out to public without lots of people, experts in their fields, checking them multiple times.

"Research is such a cautious approach with layers of precautionary measures to avoid harming people in the process. Of course, there is no 100% assurance, there will never be, but these are the best shots on our arsenal."

CEO of the CAE Franck Banza is pictured receiving an injection of COVID-19 vaccine from GP practice nurse Heather Featon. Franck Banza is the founder and CEO of BAME community organisation The CAE, based in Swansea. 

Speaking on the day he received his COVID-19 vaccine, Franck said: "Today I've had my COVID vaccine and it all went smoothly, it went well.

"I would encourage people from the BAME community to have a positive attitude towards the vaccine.

"If you have any questions please do get in touch with your GP or a medical expert who will give you more information about it and help make up your mind."

Reem El-Sharkawi is a pharmacist working in the Swansea Bay area, and her sister Dr Lamah El-Sharkawi is a GP in Uplands and Mumbles surgery and GP tutor in Swansea University Medical School.

They say: "Over the past year, we have all been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, many - including us - have lost our loved ones.

"We know that the ethnic minority community has been affected greatly by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately there still remains hesitancy and reluctancy among our community to get vaccinated.

"The vaccine was created by scientists worldwide and has been manufactured and tested at a really quick rate due to global effort and funding. In the United Kingdom, we have the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency which is an independent body that scrutinises and regulates all our vaccines and medications to ensure their safety and efficacy.

"It is now time for us to do our bit, for our community, for our friends and our family.

"We have had the vaccine and so has our dad. We would strongly urge and encourage all our family, friends and everyone in the community to get the vaccine too.

"If you have any concerns or any questions about the vaccine, please don't hesitate to speak to your GP or pharmacist who would be willing to answer any of your queries.

"Let's get through this together. Having the vaccine will not only be helping you, it will be helping your family, friends and your local community.

"Please help us get back to normality." 

A profile photo of Dr Webster Rushesha, consultant anaesthetist. Dr Webster Rushesha is a consultant anaesthetist based at Morriston Hospital.

Webster says: “As a doctor of African origin, I totally understand why some people are reluctant to get the vaccine.

"No one can tell you to have a vaccine but I urge all ethnic minorities to make their decision based on facts not conspiracy theories.

"If not for yourself, think about those around you.”

Dr Jaya Ramachandran is a consultant psychiatrist in older peoples' mental health, based at Cefn Coed hospital.

Jaya says: "As a psychiatrist I see a lot of patients with dementia and I see how serious a COVID infection can be for at risk and vulnerable people.

"I wanted to get vaccinated not only for myself but for the sake of my community and for the society as a whole.

"I've had both my doses of the vaccine now and I haven't had any side effects except for a sore arm for a couple of days.

"If people have any doubts about the vaccine, I would urge them to speak to a healthcare professional, make an informed decision and get vaccinated.

"I believe the vaccine works, is effective and is safe."

Dr Anjula Mehta is Swansea Bay University Health Board’s Medical Director for Primary and Community Services.

Anjula says: "As a female BAME doctor I am a huge advocate for the COVID-19 vaccine. These vaccines have been rigorously tested and are a safe and effective way of helping to beat COVID-19. I have had mine and so will my family members when offered.

"I know there have been some concerns regarding this vaccine within the BAME community, but I urge you to read the literature, note the facts and go for your vaccine when you are offered.

"Integrity of the COVID-19 vaccines are high as they contain no substances that might conflict with religious or personal beliefs, such as animal or foetal matter.

"The vaccine can also be administered during Ramadan as intramuscular injection of non-nutritional purpose does not invalidate the fast. This is supported by many Islamic scholars.

"I have had my COVID-19 vaccine - please don’t hesitate to get yours when offered to help protect yourself, your family and the wider public."

A black and white photo of Navjot Kalra, head of value based health care at Swansea Bay University Health Board. Navjot Kalra is head of value based healthcare at Swansea Bay University Health Board and a founding member of our BAME staff network.

Navjot says: “I did have concerns around the speed at which the COVID vaccines were approved at first. I’ve also had an adverse reaction to a flu vaccine in the past which made me hesitant about this one.

“In order to address my concerns, I spoke to BAME colleagues and clinicians who work for the health board, and community members. I also looked up the information and evidence myself - on the website there are lots of details on the vaccines and the steps taken to approve them, and frequently asked questions.

“This helped me weigh up the benefits and risks, and I now understand that no vaccine is perfect. There could always be some side effects when you have had it, whether you have a sore arm or headaches. So I have made the decision that when I am offered the vaccine I will be taking it to protect myself, my family and the community.”

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