Oxford-AstraZeneca: Facts, myths and the resistance

Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Photo by Mark Bruxelle - Shutterstock

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been subject to debate based on numerous health concerns surrounding blood clots. Due to these concerns, many members of Britain’s Asian community have been reluctant to have the jab, and are worried if it is safe. Jack Thompson investigates.

Medical professionals and senior doctors called the Coronavirus vaccine roll-out a ‘significant breakthrough’ for science.

The development was something that the entire medical community should be proud of – given that nobody had heard of COVID-19 a year and a half ago.

However, there are still many individuals within the British-Asian community who are still unwilling to accept the vaccines and question their safety.

‘For me it was terrible’

Mohammed Ahmed, 75, a retired newsagent’s owner, was hesitant to have the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and still believes that it is dangerous to use.

“I had the AstraZeneca jab a couple of months ago now, and I still don’t think it’s safe for people, mainly because it was rushed through the manufacturing process.

“For me it was terrible, because I had sharp pains in my arm for days, I felt cold, then I felt hot and I had the worst headaches of my life.  

“As a Muslim, I’m also troubled by this type of dose because I’ve heard many stories that it includes animal products from pigs, and this is Haram in my religion; meaning unethical and forbidden,” Mohammed says.

Of course, this has been debunked by many experts and virologists in the scientific field.

Mohammed is just one of many Muslims within the community who are heavily sceptical about this vaccine, and the long-term effects it may have for the immune system.

Minority ethnic backgrounds

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, from December 2020 to March 2021, 90% of all residents in England aged 70 or over had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The percentage was lower among all individuals from a minority ethnic background, including those from Pakistani (74%) and Bangladeshi (72%) backgrounds.

Despite many British-Asians not wanting to have the jab, there are those who are going through with the process, and want to contribute to a safer society.

Latif Hussain, before starting his afternoon taxi shift. Photo by Jack Thompson.

Latif Hussain, 61, a taxi driver and community leader, received his first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in March.

Since then, he has encouraged others from a minority ethnic background to have it and not to be frightened.

“I think it’s good, I think it’s good.

“A lot of stress, you know, people have a lot of stress for this one; but I think it’s good because I had one injection, but it caused me a little bit of a problem but I’m fine – I think it’s good.

“There is a problem with, you know, if you take it and you feel a fever and you feel aching and things like that, but, on the other side if you take some pain relief or paracetamol; I think you’re fine,” Latif says.

After visiting the vaccination centre and going to his appointment, he thought that it was important to stamp out vaccine disinformation whilst promoting the vaccine.

“I think everybody should have it, everybody.

“I think it’s safe to have, you know, everybody should have one.”

According to medical studies and reports, one of the most common reasons for hesitancy within the British-Asian community are concerns regarding side effects and long-term effects on health.

Misinformation is also a significant contributor on social media platforms as well – spreading false, unscientific, unverified information that may trick some into believing the Coronavirus vaccines are dangerous and lethal.

‘It’s Halal’

Cllr Munsif Dad, Hyndburn Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Communities, has also received a COVID-19 vaccine.

Unlike Mohammed and Latif, Cllr Dad was injected with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

As a senior member of the borough council and a Lancashire County Councillor, he is encouraging more people to have the jab and to support the distribution.

Cllr Munsif Dad, Cabinet Member for Health and Communities. Photo by Hyndburn Borough Council.

He said: “I was very fortunate to be in line to get the vaccination.

“It was Pfizer that I’ve actually had, and I didn’t feel anything at all, I didn’t get any side effects or anything like that and I’ve talked to many people who’ve had the vaccination and they also said that they had very minimal side effects.

“So, rest assured, if you get the opportunity, go down, get the vaccination done – get yourself safe.”

A Muslim, Cllr Dad believes that it is also important to reach out to those who are fasting during this year’s Ramadan.

Adding that: “The other important thing is the Islamic scholars have said that this particular vaccine can also be taken during Ramadan and your fasting will not be affected, it’s Halal.

“So I encourage all people from British-Asian heritage backgrounds to take up this vaccination.

“And if there are any concerns, any questions that these people have, and I’m sure the professional people at the vaccination centres, or even your local councillors and your GP will be able to answer the questions that you’re asking for.”

GPs are also calling for more confidence amongst the British-Asian community and wider society when it comes to vaccination appointments.

Burnley-based GP Dr Zainab Khan has been in the medical profession for over 20 years, and she has held several phone-in sessions with numerous people predominantly from a minority ethnic background over vaccine worries.

“The phone-in consultations regarding concerns with Coronavirus vaccines keep on coming.

“Most weeks I get calls from people getting all worked up over the Oxford vaccine, and there’s simply nothing to worry about.

“People, especially who are from a South Asian background, must try to understand that these vaccinations are to help those in society – not to injure or cause serious damage,” Dr Khan says.