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Alisha Issa, 16, remembers the moment her mum finally agreed to get the coronavirus vaccine. It was a chilly Tuesday afternoon in Bolton and the pair had gone for a walk before it got dark. Alisha went through her mother’s questions and fears again, answering what she could. When, at the end of the walk, her mum agreed to take the jab, she was filled with a sense of relief.
“She was very hesitant and very worried, but she didn’t have any regrets after she took it. She was saying it was painless and that it was so well organised,” Alisha said. She had similar conversations with her grandparents and turned to her A-level biology books to answer the worries they had.
Alisha is not alone. Across the UK, friends and family members have been having important conversations with vaccine-hesitant loved ones to try to encourage them to get the jab. Many are scared about the unprecedented speed at which vaccines have been produced and fear they could have unintended consequences. The issue is particularly acute in black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities where, despite evidence that they have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, they are among the least likely to take up the jab.
Elena Sanchez-Heras, a cell biologist, was trained by Newham vaccine leaders on how to talk to people reaching out to the London borough about the vaccine deployment. She often suggests people talk to family members who have had the jab. “When they come back on the phone to me, they feel much more at peace with the vaccine. Whatever the relative says is more valuable,” she said.
Oya Christie-Miller, an educational consultant from Norfolk, still has the text from a close family friend – who is Bulgarian-Turkish and in their 60s with pre-existing health conditions – telling her she would refuse to be immunised. “The text said: ‘I’m scared. I’ve heard it’s not good for some people and there are also a few who have died from it or have become paralysed.’”
Christie-Miller, who signed up to be a volunteer vaccinator, spent the next few months talking through her friend’s concerns and providing accurate information. “I just thought: I have to be honest with her that I think she needs to get vaccinated on one hand, but if I push too soon too far, then she might just stop talking to me about this. So I had to be kind of gentle about my effort to convince her,” she said.
When Christie-Miller, who is in a higher-risk group, was offered the jab, she told her friend she was having it. She gave regular updates of what it was like at the vaccination centre and how she felt afterwards.
“She checked in with me again the following day and asked how I was doing. I told her I felt great and had no side-effects,” she said. The friend later texted to say she would book an appointment, and her husband and granddaughter went with her. “She was so scared and almost backed out. But she did it. She was like, OK, it’s good for me. And that was that. I felt so triumphant and happy that she did it.”
A doctor from Liverpool who had to convince her mother, a black woman in her 70s with underlying conditions, to be vaccinated, urged people to be patient with their relatives. “Explore what their concerns are in a kind and non-judgmental way before you give your opinion. With my mum, I tried to get to the bottom of why she was so apprehensive. If I hadn’t been a doctor and didn’t know about the whole research application process, I would have said, ‘I’m gonna go away, find some answers and then I’m gonna come back to you with information’,” they said.
A pharmacist in Edinburgh, Spela Oberstar, took part in an online session held by her friend and two daughters where she answered technical questions about the vaccine. “My parents on the other hand required a much less technical explanation. They were surprised that vaccines are not 100% effective so they could get sick even if they get vaccinated. We discussed how vaccination, not vaccines, are effective in fighting the pandemic, and that we would already be happy if the vaccine was 50% effective. I shared with all several resources that I found useful but the conversation seemed to reassure them more than written resources.”
Reem, a 24-year-old graduate from London who did not want to give her last name, found convincing her mother to take the vaccine had a ripple effect on other people in her Moroccan community. “One of her friends was told by her daughter to just wait out and don’t take it. And then she had a conversation with my mum and she convinced her … My mum became the voice of reason.”
As for Alisha’s mother, she had very mild symptoms after having the jab. “She was very lucky it only lasted a day. Otherwise, I would never hear the end of it!”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘She was so scared’: family and friends tackle Covid jab hesitancy | World news