Black and other ethnic minority Swindonians are being urged to take up invitations to book appointments for the Covid-19 vaccine when they receive them.

A task group set up by the borough council after the last health, housing and care overview and scrutiny committee meeting is looking at ways to address the reasons why members of the town’s minority communities have been hit particularly hard by the virus, and decide what can be done about it.

Director of public health Steve Maddern said: “Nationally it is recognised that vaccine hesitancy is a concern, particularly for BAME communities. Misunderstandings around the vaccination can have an impact as communities may feel the vaccine goes against their beliefs.

“We also know that those from BAME communities are less likely to take the opportunity to vaccinate but more likely to be affected by Covid-19. We know that getting into the heart of our communities is key to correcting incorrect information and dispelling any myths linked to the vaccine. The vaccines have been robustly tested and are safe for use. The current vaccinations in use do not contain animal products.”

Task group member Olawumi Ibitoye said: “We all talk about normality and wanting to get back to our lives and social lives before Covid-19, however for us to get back safely to the lives we are all longing for we all need to be vaccinated.

“It is paramount the BAME community takes on board the advice from the NHS. As a front-line worker, I have been working throughout lockdown supporting people in crisis. I have had my vaccination with no adverse reaction. There have been so many myths about the vaccine shared among the BAME community.

“I would like to encourage fellow BAME residents to disregard all this negative information. I opted to be vaccinated to keep myself, family, colleagues, and community safe, I urge everyone to do the same. This will help us save many more lives and protect our currently overwhelmed NHS.”

Gifty Tawiah, who also sits on the task group, added: “As someone born in Africa, I have seen at first hand the impact mass vaccination has had on reducing infant mortality from common diseases such as polio and TB.

“Mass vaccination is therefore crucial if we want to overcome this new threat from COVID-19. My mother has been vaccinated and I will happily get vaccinated when I get the call. The only way we can all be protected, is to get the vaccine.”

The group was set up after a report to the committee by Labour councillors Junab Ali and Abdul Amin.

Coun Ali said: “We still have a long way to go in reducing inequalities in all forms in our society. Regarding vaccination in the BAME communities I haven’t heard any negative talk of not taking the vaccination, but I hear people are eager and ready when their turns come to have the jab so that they are protected and when everyone has had it we might get back to normal.”

Coun Amin added: “I am very pleased that the task group has been created in response to my recent report presented at the health overview and scrutiny committee.

“I hope that over time we can reduce the equality gap and improve access to crucial services for BAME communities.

“On top of that, the current national vaccination campaign is very exciting, and I would encourage people to take this vaccine if they are able to. If you are hesitant, please do seek information from reliable resources such as the NHS instead of relying on random Facebook videos."