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Covid vaccine push for Charedi community focuses on pregnant women

Public health officials have stepped up efforts to vaccinate the Charedi community in Hackney amid concerns disinformation is preventing large numbers of pregnant women from coming forward.

The government has launched a major national push to improve uptake of the Covid booster jab after data confirmed that the Omicron variant was “rife” throughout London and England generally.

In London this push is being led by the NHS, Mayor of London and Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) working with the boroughs.

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Data collected by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and the NHS has allowed those behind this vaccine push to focus their attention on areas they appear to be getting left behind in terms of uptake.

Hackney is home to one of the largest Charedi communities in Europe – with young couples actively trying to have several children – meaning demographically there is always a higher number of young pregnant women as a percentage of the local population than can be found elsewhere.

But Jewish News understands that the North Hackney region in particular has emerged as one area in which there is one of the lowest uptakes of the both the first two Covid prevention vaccines, and more recently with the booster jab.

Public health officials confirm they have recently seen an improvement in low uptake rates after changing the way they delivered their messaging to the community through leaflets and flyers.

They have also engaged in constructive dialogue with local Charedi communal groups serving the Hackney region, including Hatzola, Interlink and the JCC (Jewish Community Council) -stressing that that the Orthodox Jewish community is not being singled out with blame for low uptakes.

Dr Ellen Schwartz, the public health consultant who leads for vaccine uptake in the Orthodox Jewish community in Hackney, confirmed after discussions took place with Charedi community leaders changes were made to the format of flyers and leaflets that were distributed particularly to pregnant women.

Concerns about the impact of the vaccine on fertility were found to be one of the issues affecting uptake amongst young women and males in the community.

Pregnant woman (Photo by Anastasiia Chepinska on Unsplash)

“People from within the community approached us with advice on how to articulate messaging about the vaccines in a way that was acceptable and was being listened to,” said Schwartz.

“We were very concerned about those who had not had the vaccine at all, and we were extremely concerned about pregnant women.”

Since the new leaflets were distributed, there has been a marked increase on recent Sunday’s of community members, including pregnant women, who are turning up at local clinics to be vaccinated.

“Vaccination is the safest way for pregnant women to protect themselves and their babies against severe disease,”DrLeonora Weil, a public health consultant with OHID London told Jewish News.

“Pregnant women who get COVID have a have an increased risk of serious illness with higher rates of intensive care admissions.

“For the baby, there is twice the risk of stillbirth and preterm birth with infection in pregnancy.

“Pregnant women across the world have had the COVID vaccine without raising safety concerns.”

Next month, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan will use his Big Conversation webinar events to specifically reach out to the Orthodox Jewish community to “encourage frank, honest and open dialogue” around the uptake of vaccines.

Sadiq Khan speaking with a member of the Charedi community in Hackney at a vacation clinic

Sessions have already been held with other communities including the Muslim and Black communities in the capital, with similar concerns amongst officials over the low uptake of vaccines.

The Mayor said:”“It has been heartening to see Londoners of all backgrounds and ages lining up outside our pharmacies, hospitals and pop-up vaccination centres which are working around the clock as part of the biggest booster roll out in the country.

“As cases of the Omicron variant continue to rise I don’t want any Londoner to be left behind in the vaccine rollout – particularly those

Poster produced by the JCC, urging covid vaccinations, in Yiddish

communities who have been so badly affected by the pandemic, like the Jewish community who have suffered disproportionately with the loss of both loved ones and livelihoods.

“That’s why I urge all Jewish Londoners to receive their vaccination and get boosted to protect yourself and your loved ones this winter.”

A statement from the JCC said Biala Shul, Belz Hall and Skever Hall, were all being used as vaccination clinics.

Source: Jewish News

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