LONDON: A mosque in Bradford, northern England, became the latest in the UK to open its doors as a community COVID-19 vaccination center on Thursday.
The center at Bradford Central Mosque is part of an initiative by the Council for Mosques in Bradford and local GPs to increase the number of people being inoculated in communities where so-called vaccine hesitancy is a cause for concern.
More than 100 people were vaccinated between 8.30 a.m. and 1.30 p.m. after the center opened on Thursday. It will run again next Thursday when a decision will be made whether to increase sessions according to demand and logistics.
“We know that there has been hesitancy in the Muslim community surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine; whether it was halal and whether there were any animal byproducts in it,” council president Zulfi Karim, 53, told Arab News.
“That was one of the reasons we worked with medics, locally and nationally, and with the British Islamic Medical Association. We established very early on that there were no animal byproducts in the vaccine and that it did not contain anything unsuitable for Muslims,” he said.
Karim said that the council issued a statement in early January quashing conspiracy theories and fake news about the vaccines, and encouraging Muslims to be inoculated.
“Our number one job is to save lives and protect as many people as we can. The Council for Mosques worked with the local authority, the NHS and Public Health England to get the information and find out where the bottleneck was. We wanted to find out people’s concerns and allay them.”
Karim is also the program director of NHS Well Bradford, a community program that tackles health inequalities.
Locating the vaccination center at the mosque should encourage as many people as possible to get vaccinated, he said.
“A mosque is a place that people trust. Imams are well versed and well educated enough to be in a position to give information out. If they are saying the vaccines are halal then we really should support the endeavor to get as many people as possible vaccinated as soon as possible. That is the only way we will see the back of the pandemic,” Karim said.
The center is open to all and is run through the GP network, so patients still need to book through their GPs.
Karim said volunteers are ensuring the vaccination process is as smooth as possible for those receiving the jab.
“This is a community-led initiative and we are all volunteers. There will be a lot of people at the center helping. We are even running shuttle buses to pick up patients, bring them to the mosque and then take them back home. This will help those who are elderly or may not have transport.
“We are trying to make it as easy and painless as possible for as many people as we can, and this is our way of reaching out to the community,” Karim said.
“We as Muslims wanted to play our part. We want to help the NHS. This has been a big journey for everybody, and I think as a community it is really important that we give something back.”