• Tuesday, June 28, 2022


Top doctors seek to reassure Asians as Covid variant hastens infection

New research to uncover social, economic and cultural factors affecting ethnic minority groups during COVID-19 (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

By: Lauren Codling


LEADING doctors have said there is no need for panic as they sought to reassure Asians about the new variant of the coronavirus which has led to tighter restrictions in London and parts of south-east England.

Dr Kailash Chand said the new variant was predicted by scientists months ago and is not any worse than the current virus. However, he acknowledged that there was a higher chance of transmission with the mutant strain. The BMA council chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, meanwhile, urged Asians to be “even more vigilant”.

Doctors have also asked Asians to sign up to take the vaccine as a GP in the West Midlands spoke of her disappointment in seeing few members of the community when immunisations were carried out last week.

The doctors’ concerns follow the new Tier 4 level curbs – similar to the national lockdown in March – in London and south-east England, which came into force last Sunday (20). Prime minister Boris Johnson tore up plans to allow three households to mix indoors for five days over the festive period, to stem the fast-spreading new coronavirus mutation.

Doctors have urged Asians to sign up to take the vaccine as polls showed ethnic minority groups were the least likely to want the jab

Health secretary Matt Hancock defended the decision, saying evidence showing the new strain was causing spiralling cases had forced the action. It is said to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original. “We’ve got a long way to go to sort this,” Hancock said last weekend. “Essentially, we’ve got to get that vaccine rolled out to keep people safe. Given how much faster this new variant spreads, it’s going to be very difficult to keep it under control until we have the vaccine rolled out.”

In an interview with Eastern Eye on Monday (21), Dr Chand said the mutation was “nothing new” to scientists. “Most viruses mutate,” he said, noting that officials had seen evidence of the new strain in September.

However, he urged Asians to get the vaccine when it became available to them as he acknowledged the speed of the mutation’s transmission. Britain began inoculating people using the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech earlier this month.

“Is the new strain more dangerous? The answer is no, it is not more dangerous,” Dr Chand, the honorary vice-president of the British Medical Association (BMA), stated. “But yes, it is spreading quickly. Knowing that, you ought to still take all those special measures. Don’t hesitate getting this vaccine.”

Dr Nagpaul agreed that mutations were common when dealing with viruses. Therefore, he said the emergence of a new strain was not surprising. However, he warned that preventative measures of the new strain should be no different to those in place to control the current virus. He warned ethnic minority communities to be “even more vigilant”.

The new strain of coronavirus is said to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original

“Given the increased risk of adverse health outcomes from Covid within BAME communities, it is vital that those from ethnic minorities are even more vigilant at this moment in time to adhere to these stringent infection prevention measures,” Dr Nagpaul told Eastern Eye.

He reiterated health guidelines, including avoid mixing with different households; maintaining a distance of more than two metres; wearing a mask when necessary; and washing hands regularly to halt the spread of Covid.

Meanwhile, health experts have called on Asians to take part in the immunisation against the virus. Dr Samara Afzal, a GP based in Dudley, said she was “disappointed” to see the low number of Asian patients at sessions to receive vaccinations. “I was disappointed by the turnout,” Dr Afzal told Eastern Eye. “I could probably count the handful of Asians who came in for the vaccine.”

Last week, a poll found ethnic minority groups are the least likely to want the coronavirus vaccine. A little more than half (57 per cent) of respondents from BAME backgrounds were likely to accept a vaccine, compared to 79 per cent of white respondents, according to the study commissioned by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).

Both Dr Chand and Dr Afzal have received the jab in recent days. They said they had no issues since then and encouraged members of the community to take the immunisation when invited to. “We need to reassure people the vaccine is safe and effective,” Dr Chand said.

Dr Samara Afzal receiving her vaccination

Dr Nagpaul agreed it was vital that everyone continues to come forward to be vaccinated when they are invited. He called for culturally sensitive and competent messaging to accompany the vaccination rollout to maximise uptake. “This is especially important for those people at most risk,” he said.

Johnson and his scientific advisors have said they believed the vaccines would still be effective, and added the new strain was not more deadly or more serious in terms of the illness caused. On Monday (21), French health minister Olivier Veran agreed the current Covid-19 vaccines should work against a new strain of the virus. “In theory, there is no reason to think that the vaccine should not be effective,” Veran said.

(With agencies)

Eastern Eye

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