By Nadhim Zahawi
Vaccine deployment minister
CORONAVIRUS is forcing us to live more of our lives online and now more than ever people are using social media to connect and share updates, memories and feelings with their loved ones.
It’s a fantastic way to keep in touch when we cannot meet face to face as we used to.
But, sadly, as we have seen, these benefits come with risks – including the potential for false information about Covid-19 to spread easily online.
When there are surveys showing people from ethnic minority communities are less likely get a vaccine, it’s clear that false information will cost lives. Vaccines are the best way to protect people from coronavirus and will save thousands of lives. Getting the vaccine is quick, easy and, most important, it’s safe.
Regardless of someone’s background, ethnicity or religion, it’s essential that when it’s their turn to get a vaccine, everyone takes that life-changing opportunity. It is natural for people to have questions about Covid-19 vaccines. But to get the answers we should seek advice from trusted medical experts. People can check the facts about vaccinations and coronavirus on gov.uk and the NHS website.
We have been working closely with social media companies throughout this pandemic, urging them to get tough on false information about coronavirus and Covid-19 vaccines as well as to promote accurate advice and information.
The NHS and the UK government are doing everything we can to provide advice and information at every possible opportunity, and to make it accessible to those who need it in easy-to-read or large-print formats or in a different language.
Last week, we launched graphics so people can share on social media the memorable moment when they get their vaccine, or to pledge their support for getting the jab when their time comes. With a range of designs available, co-created with iconic British institutions including the Premier League, the graphics will be ready to use in 13 different languages from this week. People in communities up and down the country will be able to use social media to show their support for the vaccine, pledge to get vaccinated and thank the NHS which is working hard to protect us all from this dangerous virus.
I have already added a frame to my profile picture on Facebook to pledge my support for the vaccine, and I encourage you to do it as well.
We know that there’s more to do to make sure everyone has the support they need to get the vaccine when it’s their turn.
Earlier this month, we published our Vaccine Uptake Plan, which set out how we will boost take-up of the jab in all communities across the UK, with an extra focus on those people in ethnic minority, underserved or vulnerable groups.
We are teaming up with faith leaders, directors of public health, charities and local partners to deliver this plan, focusing on four priority areas – building partnerships; increasing access for all groups; sharing valuable information; and connecting and exchanging what we’ve learned. The plan also has some innovative and inspirational case studies, from community champions to vaccine buses helping people get to their jabs.
Every day we are getting closer to beating coronavirus. The astounding speed of the rollout is testament to the nation’s determination and resolve to pull together. But we must keep up the momentum. Vaccines are the light at the end of the tunnel – they will provide a way out of the pandemic and protect those most vulnerable in our society.
I urge everyone, when you get the call, to book an appointment to get the vaccine. It could save your life and your family’s lives too.