Two sisters who have been on the community frontline during ethnic (BAME) community members to get vaccinated
Reem El-Sharkawi (near right)is a pharmacist for a group of Swansea GP surgeries, and Dr Lamah El-Sharkawi (far right) is a GP at Uplands and Mumbles surgery, and GP tutor at Swansea University Medical School. They are half-Egyptian, half-Lebanese and, in their words, fully Welsh.
Over the past 12 months, Reem and Lamah have seen the devastating effect COVID-19 can have on families and communities, both profession-ally and personally.
“We’ve all been affected greatly by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Reem says.
“Many of us – including my sister and I – have lost loved ones to this virus, while others are still experiencing the after effects of COVID-19 long after catching it.”
As seen elsewhere in the UK, so far fewer people from BAME backgrounds in Swansea Bay have accepted the offer of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to white individuals.
National surveys have also shown that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are generally less likely to have a COVID-19 vaccine. This is for a variety of reasons, including potential side effects and safety.
“A lot of people are still hesitant about getting vaccinated,” Lamah says.
“While we understand your concerns, and where they may come from, it is so important that we all do our bit and protect ourselves, our family, friends and community.”
Reem adds: “One key issue we know many people have concerns about is whether the
COVID-19 vaccines are safe to have, given how quickly it has been developed compared to other vaccines.
“They were created by scientists from across the world. All the proper steps and procedures were followed but it was manufactured and tested at a really quick rate because of this global effort and funding.
“The vaccines that are being used by the NHS in Swansea Bay and across the UK have all been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency which is an independent body that scrutinises and regulates all our vaccines and medications to ensure their safety and efficacy.”
Both Reem and Lamah have already had their vaccine, as has their father, retired consultant oncologist Dr Salah El-Sharkawi.
“We would strongly urge and encourage all our family, friends and everyone in the community to get the vaccine too,” Lamah says.
“There is lots of official information available on the government, NHS and Swansea Bay
University Health Board websites but if you have any concerns or questions about the vaccine, please don’t hesitate to speak to your GP or pharmacist.
“They will be happy to talk it through with you and answer any questions you may have.”
The health board’s ‘immbulance’, a converted mobile library now being used as a mobile vaccination clinic has been at Swansea’s mosque vaccinating members of the BAME community.
More than 130,000 people have now received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Swansea Bay, with thousands more booked in for an appointment. People in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot are being vaccinated at GP surgeries and Mass Vaccination Centres according to where they fall in the priority groups set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
At the time of writing, patients in group 6 are being called for vaccination. Group 6 includes people with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers.
If you are registered as a carer with your GP surgery, you don’t need to do anything – you’ll get an appointment automatically
If you aren’t registered with your GP as a carer, you must fill in this online form available here: https://sbuhb.nhs.wales/go/unpaid-carers/
Please note that you need to fill in the form whether you receive a carers’ allowance or not. This is because a ‘paid carer’ refers to staff who are employed/contracted to provide care, in other words, it’s their paid job. Carer’s allow-ance is not considered payment, and you are therefore classed as an unpaid carer.
Full information on how the COVID-19 vaccination programme is progressing in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, and where you are in the queue, visit the vaccination page on Swansea Bay University Health Board’s website, https://sbuhb.nhs.wales.