Cross denominational leaders of the Christian faith are collaborating with the NHS as part of a new campaign to dispel myths surrounding the Covid-19 vaccines.
The Give Hope Campaign, has been organized by YourNeighbour, and is aimed at encouraging a more balanced conversation around the vaccine and to tackle much of the misinformation that has caused distrust, particularly in black majority communities and churches.
The campaign has garnered the support of Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham and Pastor Agu Irukwu (Jesus House), the Bishop of Dover, Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Commissioner Anthony Cotterill from the Salvation Army and other senior church leaders.
YourNeighbour has sought input from NHS England and Public Health England. In addition, the campaign has partnered with behavioural scientists at Ice Creates to understand the complexities around vaccine hesitancy and how to work with communities to build trust and uptake in the vaccine.
Yemi Adedeji is a pastor at Jesus House, he told Premier about the aims of the campaign:
Well, what we're trying to do is to give information, you make the decision yourself. I think every pastor's job is to give adequate information for people to explore the information and use it to shape whatever decision you want to make. So for example, different churches or denominations are now setting up a meeting or a panel or a seminar, bringing experts, scientists, doctors, biologists, for people to ask questions, because when you ask questions, you will get answers. So they are able to dispel all these rumours, by the scientific facts by the information that is available. And more so by telling the people that I have taken the jab myself. It's important, beyond anything else. It's about letting people know if you don't take it, you are just going to die or somebody close to you is going to die, or someone you're going to engage with will eventually die if you catch this COVID. So it is to help people to understand the facts behind this so that they can make an informed decision."
He added there are a number of reasons why some are reticent to take up the vaccine, for example, because of a lack of trust in the government.
"The number two is the fact that people will think that is this part of the hand of time with the 666, they're going to put a chip in your body, and then you're gonna become a zombie, and all that sort of things. So these are all nonsense that lack authentic facts."
"My advice to anyone listening to me I'm not compelling I'm not forcing is, when it's my time when they call me, I am going to take the vaccine. Why? Because I want to protect my family. I want to protect my judgment. I want to protect people around me. Ultimately, it is God that heals. But God has given the wisdom to scientists to provide this vaccine in to help us at this particular time. So if we trust God, we must trust the creation of God, that God has given to us to help us at this time," he added.
Russ Rook, co-founder of YourNeighbour added in a statement: "Over the coming months, we will be supporting Christian leaders and activists to change the narrative around the COVID-19 vaccines in their communities. By helping to communicate directly with hard to reach groups that may miss out, facilitating clear and kind conversations with some who may be reticent and providing practical support to those who need it, UK churches are playing a vital role in our country's recovery from COVID-19."
The chief executive of NHS England has described "genuine and deep concern" that uptake of COVID -19 vaccines may be lower among minority ethnic groups. A recent poll of 2000 UK adults by the Royal Society for Public Health found that three quarters (76%) of people overall would willingly have a covid vaccination-but this fell to 57% of respondents from minority ethnic backgrounds.
Bishop of Dover, Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin said: "When you are offered the opportunity to get your COVID vaccination, I want you to take it. There are distracting voices in our black and minority ethnic communities spreading doubt and alarm. And while I understand the fear and concern, listening to those voices alone will rob us of the need to live flourishing lives with our families and friends. These vaccines offer us a path through the pandemic, giving us hope, strength and the chance of safety. If the vaccine was good enough for Her Majesty, then it is good enough for us."