Community leaders in Brent have urged people to “seriously consider” taking the Covid-19 vaccine when invited as they sought to dispel “fake news” around the procedure.

Speaking at a webinar hosted by Brent Council last night (Monday, January 26), medical professionals were joined by religious leaders and community activists to address public concerns around the vaccine.

Dr John Licorish, deputy director of Public Health Brent, said he would advise everyone to attend any proposed vaccine appointment where they will have the chance to ask questions about the jab.

He acknowledged the current vaccines are not 100 per cent effective and do not stop people from catching or spreading Covid-19, but argued it is a “major step” in combating the virus.

“It can protect you and reduce the risk in getting seriously ill – it is in everyone’s interests to seriously consider having it,” he said.

Dr Licorish explained there is no chance of the vaccine altering your DNA, while he advised those with a history of allergic reactions to discuss their situation with health professionals at a vaccine appointment.

He added he is unsure how long protection from the vaccine will last – this will be continually studied “as all vaccines are” – and, while this is also subject to further analysis, he expects top-ups will be required.

Biochemist Dr Musharraf Hussain al-Azhari, who is also an imam, explained how representatives of the Islamic community in Brent have urged all eligible Muslims to take the vaccine when offered.

He said this is backed by Islamic theology as it could help protect others and adheres to advice presented by authorities based on facts.

And he suggested mosques in the borough will be happy to be used as vaccine centres if necessary, which could also provide additional comfort to those who remain sceptical.

Dr Markand Patel, representing the Neasden Temple, said similar messages have been conveyed to the Hindu community around the vaccine.

He advised members that religious leaders have verified the use of the vaccine, noted it cannot give you Covid-19 and confirmed the current ones on offer do not contain animal products, including egg.

And Atara Fridler, director at Crisis Brent Skylight, said there must be a concerted effort reach out to homeless people in north-west London, who could be at risk of missing out on the vaccine.

She explained many homeless people are not registered with GPs, while it is more difficult to engage with them in general and they may be more easily affected by misinformation.