Unvaccinated Islington residents urged to get the jab

Black residents among those with lower vaccination rates, reports Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

Vaccination (credit NHS England)
The vaccination rate has slowed in recent weeks (credit NHS England)

Communities are being urged to help boost the number of their friends who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 – with an emphasis on increasing the number of black residents who get the potentially life-saving jab.

The numbers of Islington residents who are turning up for their first vaccine has now dropped to an average of 2,000 a week, from 13,000 a week earlier on in the vaccine programme.

Another mass vaccine event is planned at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium in August.

Islington Council’s director of public health, Jonathan O’Sullivan, said the numbers getting their jab is “now on a downward trend” but stressed that walk-ins are on offer and the Pfizer jab is routinely on offer for younger people.

This follows concerns about rare cases of blood clots in some people who had the AstraZeneca jab. But Jonathan stressed that “all our vaccines are safe”.

The borough has a young population which also means vaccine rates are lower as they are the last people to be offered the jabs. The council is talking to NHS England about mobilising pharmacy staff who are happy to help give people the jab at centres across the borough.

Jonathan reassured people that they won’t be asked for their immigration status or for an NHS number and they don’t need to be registered with a GP.

He said: “In the under-30s, the kind of thing coming through is wanting to protect others, vulnerable parents. The other thing is about travel – people are asking if they can have it within four or five weeks of their first vaccine.”

He said it was “a tale of two cities”, with higher vaccine rates in outer London compared with inner boroughs.

Overall, 146,000 people had had their first vaccine by Friday, 23rd July – an increase of 2,500 on the previous week – with 98,000 getting their second jab.

Jonathan said there was no difference in the take-up in white and Asian populations, but it was 20% lower in black communities. People will be able to get their vaccines at the Emirates Stadium at a mass event planned between Saturday 7th and Tuesday 10th August.

One of Islington’s vaccine centres is also moving from The Arc Centre in Angel to Blackwell House in Pankhurst Terrace (EC1V 8DA) from Monday, 2nd August – closer to young residents and others who have not yet had the jab.

Councillor Jenny Kay said it was important to share the data: “I think the more that people see what’s going on, the more they can talk to their friends.”

Cabinet member Sue Lukes, who has responsibility for community safety, wants to see a big push to get as many young black people vaccinated as possible as they are a vulnerable group and “much more likely to be worse affected”.

She added: “If we don’t make a big push now over the next two months, we’ll be into the autumn and thinking about booster vaccination and all the horribly complicated things about that and we’ll have lost the chance to do a lot of the vaccination that we’re doing now.

“The problem is what we’re hearing  is a lot of resistance.”

Along with concerns about the vaccine, she said: “It’s also about trust and the fact that people know that black people have been under-served and poorly served in the past.”

Cllr Lukes told the council’s health and care scrutiny committee on Monday, 26th July: “There needs to be a way of pushing that which is not officialdom, not the council, not the health service.”

She wants to see people in communities encourage others to get vaccinated, adding: “We have to find ways of working with our communities, to bring those people in and get them determined to save lives in their communities because that’s what it’s all about.”