Covid-19 vaccination clinics held in Redbridge

25 February 2021

Vaccination pop-up clinics have taken place at two faith sites in Redbridge as part of the ongoing efforts to encourage eligible people to have their COVID-19 jab. 

The clinics, which took place at the Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery in Hainault and the Balfour Road Mosque in Ilford, were a partnership between local GPs and faith groups.

All of those vaccinated were within the priority groups, in line with national guidance, and the vast majority had pre-booked appointments through a special vaccine hotline. Volunteers from Ilford Muslim Society contacted those eligible and helped get the message out to people of all faiths. 

The clinics were primarily aimed at Redbridge residents aged 65 or over who had not yet taken up the offer of a covid vaccination. It was hoped that running them at faith sites would encourage eligible residents – including those in the local black and ethnic minority (BAME) community – to come forward to have their jab.

Among those vaccinated at the clinic at Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery were:

  • An 82-year-old man who came to visit his son’s grave and saw the vaccination centre sign outside the hall of remembrance. He had dismissed the notion of being vaccinated, believing the vaccine to be harmful, but after speaking to volunteer vaccinator Dr Mahfuj Ahmed for 15 minutes, he agreed to have the jab and was visibly moved by the experience.
  • A woman who had come to visit her father’s grave following his recent death from covid. Despite having underlying health conditions, she had shied away from having the jab due to concerns about the vaccine she had read on social media but after talking things through with Dr Shabnam Ali and pharmacist Imran Khan, she went ahead and had the jab.

Ilford GP Dr Najib Seedat, who led the vaccination team, said

“Both sessions were very successful – we had an excellent turn-out and some great patient feedback. As local GPs, we’ve been very aware of the challenges of vaccine uptake in Redbridge and, while we’ve successfully vaccinated thousands of people across the borough, we are still keen to encourage many more eligible residents to come forward when invited.

“Working closely with our partners in local faith groups gave people the opportunity to raise any concerns they might have, seek reassurance from familiar and trusted voices and have their vaccination in locations they know well. Taking this approach meant we were able to successfully vaccinate people who were previously hesitant about coming forward.”

Mohammed Omer, a board member at the cemetery, said

“In Islam, preservation of life is of the utmost importance, so we are keen to play our part to reassure those who are hesitant about having the vaccine.

“There was an excellent turn-out at the clinic, not only from the Muslim community but all faith groups. We firmly believe that vaccination is the best way to combat the pandemic so we will continue to work with the NHS to help protect our communities.”

Bashir Patel, a trustee at Balfour Road Mosque, said:

"We know that there is slower uptake of the vaccine from people within the BAME community and felt that people might be more comfortable having the vaccination in their place of worship, and that was the exact feedback we got. We were very happy to host one of the clinics – it sends the right message to the community.”

Both sessions were organised on behalf of the local NHS by GPs from HealthBridge Direct and Loxford Primary Care Network, working with Ilford Muslim Society. The clinic at the Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery took place on Saturday morning (20 February) and the clinic at Balfour Road Mosque took place the following day. 

The clinics form part of the work being done by the NHS and its partners to give the facts about the vaccine to build trust in local communities – explaining it is safe and effective, there are no animal or egg products, it is vegan, halal and kosher friendly, and that having the vaccine is the best form of protection from COVID-19 and our best chance to return to a normal way of life.

The sessions could be replicated elsewhere to make vaccinations as accessible as possible to local people, in what is the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history.

Dr Anil Mehta, Chair of NHS Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group, said

“Our covid vaccinations campaign is continuing to expand and working in partnership with our local council, community and faith groups and volunteers, we have already vaccinated thousands of people in Redbridge – providing safe and effective protection against this devastating virus for those most at risk.

“We are delighted that our partners are wholeheartedly supporting the vaccination programme with initiatives, such as these clinics in Hainault and Ilford, and we are continuing to work with groups in our Hindu, Sikh, Jewish and other local communities to encourage more people to come forward.

“We urge everyone to have the jab when offered but please continue to follow government guidelines to reduce transmission and help save lives.”