On January the 28th, The Ubele Initiative hosted a two-hour long conversation around the virus, vaccine and lockdown’s impact on our community.
Prior to this event, we ran a survey to hear your concerns and questions about the COVID-19 vaccinations. These included:
Will I be forced to have it?
What are the side effects?
How many black people have been tested, is it even safe for us?
These questions are just to name a few. Dr Yansie Rolston from BAMEStream opened the evening, with a sombre reality of how grief and bereavement has devastated families - and why black mental health needs to be an urgent priority for everyone.
Our Director, Michael Hamilton skillfully challenged Nadhim Zahawi, the COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment Minister. A refreshing and powerful moment saw Michael reminding the Minister of the everyday realities for people that are rarely heard by the government. Although the Minister appeared uncomfortable at times, we have received a very positive response from the community already. We had great feedback that Halima Begum, CEO of Runnymede Trust also raised the important issue that trust can’t be built overnight. Debbie Weekes-Barnard, also raised how structural racism, poverty and unemployment is also affecting young people, highlighted by COVID-19- stating the Minister needs to consider these inequalities before asking for trust. Thank you to Michael, for making these realities heard.
Ubele wholeheartedly validates anyone’s concern about a healthcare system that has historically betrayed and put Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in harm’s way in the past. The aim of this event was not to convince - but to inform important decisions; with factual, scientific, medical based answers from clinicians, researchers, registrars, GPs and experts who are also from the communities that it most affects. On the panel we had Dr. Sara Ann Filson, Dr. Carlon Fitzpatrick, Dr. Deepti Gurdasanii, Dr. Raliat Onatade and Yassmin Abdel-Magied facilitating. They provided honest answers to questions that came into us, and offered replies live to people in the chat. Dr. Deepti responded to a common question directly: “Yes - the vaccines are not 100% effective, and one can get infection after vaccination, although the risk of symptomatic infection is greatly reduced.” - this honesty was warmly and gratefully received by people, reassuring that their concerns were being heard.
Feedback from this event told us that hearing from our own professionals who understand deeply held concerns in the community- is what truly influenced hearts and minds. As one person said: “Maybe if we saw experts like Dr Sara Filson on the BBC medical segment it would allay some of the mistrust.” We thank Imam Ajmal Masroor who came to clarify that the vaccine is halal, which he explained is a concern for the Muslim community. We also thank Dr. Lailah Alidu working on a PhD on Ethnicity and COVID who offered her insight as to why communities are hesitant – which as she pointed out, is not for no reason.
At the end, many expressed how useful the discussion was:
Here are some useful links that were shared by the experts in the chat:
Common misconceptions about the vaccination are clarified here - Dr. Sara Ann Filson
Yellow Card Reporting is one way for everyone to learn more about the side effects of the vaccine. Anyone can report side effects to medicines using yellow card reports, so please encourage anyone you know experiencing any to do so. This way, we can get more information on how new medicines are affecting people and receive better data. - Dr. Sara Ann Filson & Dr. Raliat Onatade
If you missed it, watch the event on our YouTube channel.
— Natalie Armitage, Project Manager at The Ubele Initiative