The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London, one of UK’s largest temples known as Neasden Temple, has opened a new vaccination centre to aid the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines being administered by the National Health Service (NHS).
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel paid a visit to the centre, on the premises of Swaminarayan School opposite the temple, and hailed the local community’s “heroic effort” which will help save lives.
“It is a heroic effort that is saving lives. It will save your life when you have the vaccine and it will save the lives of other people, too,” said Ms Patel, during her visit on Wednesday.
The Indian-origin minister has been leading a drive to counter reported reluctance within the country’s ethnic minority communities about taking up the vaccine.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also expressed concerns around “vaccine hesitancy” among these communities and stressed that people should have confidence in the life-saving jabs.
“We have been worried about vaccine hesitancy in some parts of the country in some communities,” said Mr Johnson, during his Downing Street briefing on Wednesday.
“That is unquestionably an issue and we are doing everything we can to encourage people to come forward, to give them all the confidence they need. They should have confidence — it’s a great thing to get a vaccine,” he said.
The Neasden Temple has been running its own awareness campaign to address doubts and myths around the jabs, stressing that it has no questionable ingredients from a religious point of view.
It said the new vaccination centre was in addition to its holistic “Connect & Care” outreach programme throughout the pandemic, including the provision of the temple’s car park to perform COVID-19 antigen testing since June 2020 as well as a mobile clinical laboratory to process the COVID test samples since December 2020.
“The Mandir is also providing daily summaries in English and Gujarati of important government guidelines, including debunking myths and dispelling misinformation to encourage uptake of the vaccination across BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities,” the temple said in a statement.
Its new NHS Vaccination Centre began administering jabs on Tuesday through K&W Healthcare, a local north-west London general practitioner (GP) led organisation supporting GP practises and services.
It is expected to deliver up to 1,200 jabs a day to priority groups in the Brent area of the city after the temple provided volunteering services to prepare the facility and offer the premises free of charge.
“We are delighted to have an opportunity to bolster the vaccination campaign and play our part in protecting the vulnerable as well as slowing the spread of the coronavirus,” said Dr Mayank Shah, a practising GP and a trustee at the temple.