The imam of a mosque thought to be the UK’s first to host a vaccination centre has urged local people to ignore “fake news” claims surrounding coronavirus.
Groups of two people at a time were vaccinated from Thursday morning in a multi-purpose hall at the Al-Abbas Islamic Centre in Balsall Heath, Birmingham.
Imam Nuru Mohammed said he was “elated and inspired” that the NHS centre had been set up after help from several medical professionals among the 2,000-strong religious community.
People receive an injection of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine at the Al Abbas Mosque, Birmingham, which is being used as a covid vaccination centre.
— PA Images (@PAImages) January 21, 2021
He told the PA news agency: “We stepped in with the intention that this will help to inform those people who are not well-informed about the vaccination.
“It will send a very strong positive message to the wider Muslim community, not only here in Birmingham but in the entire country, because I think this is the first mosque within the country opening its doors for vaccination to take place.
“I think that is a positive message – that you know what guys, we are all together in this.”
The imam said he was aware of myths that the ingredients of the vaccination were unlawful from an Islamic perspective, complaints that face masks still had to be worn following vaccination, and even claims that Covid-19 was a “game” and did not exist.
Addressing concerns that false rumours were targeting religious communities, the mosque leader said: “As you know, fake news is going all over.
“We are here to signal to the people – first and foremost our community – and the wider communities, that we are saying a big no to fake news.
“Fake news will not win. The vaccine is the way forward.
“Islam teaches all of us the importance of enforcing the sanctity of life and health.”
“If we all play our part, we will win this fight against coronavirus,” he said.
“We have seen members of our community struggling, suffering. Some lost their lives in the process.
“My simple and straightforward message is – trust this, it will help you.
“We need to protect ourselves and people around us, so go for it.”
The imam was given the vaccine a week ago due to his work caring for the elderly and vulnerable.
“When I did that, I went on social media,” he said. “I shared it all over – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – just to send a strong, positive signal to say ‘Let’s do this’.
“I look forward to going for the second jab whenever I am invited.”
Among the first to receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at the mosque was Sylvester O’Neill, originally from Liverpool.
The retired seafarer said: “I was determined to have it because that’s the way you should do it, isn’t it.
“Otherwise you are worrying about it. I’m 89 years of age for God’s sake, I’ve got to have it.”
Urging others to follow suit in having the vaccine, Mr O’Neill joked: “Everyone should get done … I was thinking of getting our cat done!”