'Inspirational' Hatzola vaccine session can offer lessons

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi hopes Saturday night clinic will be followed up in Manchester and elsewhere


Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said it was “wonderful” to see members of the Muslim being vaccinated at a clinic in Hackney on Saturday night run by the Orthodox Jewish medical emergency service Hatzola. 

Local GPs and Hatzola volunteers inoculated 364 people, including 225 people from the Charedi community, at a four-hour session supported by the NHS, Hackney Council and other groups. 

“It was beautiful to see how well it was put together and how it embraced the whole community,” said Mr Zahawi, who came as part of the government’s aim to make sure its call for vaccination “reaches all communities across the country”. 

That the event was fully booked showed the importance of working with faith leaders and organisations that were trusted by their communities, he said. 

“I’ve heard so much about the Hatzola ambulance service, which is an extraordinary group of amazing people doing incredible things for the Charedi community,” he said. “I really learned a lot about how not only is it about having trusted voices but having people who can organise at that level.” 

He left the “totally inspirational” event, hoping that Hatzola “can do it again in Manchester and other parts of London, as well as they are planning too”. 

Both he and Hackney Labour MP Diane Abbot, who visited the session too, came away also “thinking we could do so much more learning from this with other communities as well.” 

He said he had discussed with South Tottenham Synagogue’s Rabbi Michoel Biberfeld some of the misinformation about vaccines and  “some of the resistance both in the community and in Israel. 

“He shared with me some of the stories about how some of the very prominent rabbis have been coming out and being vaccinated – and demonstrating how important it is for the whole community to be vaccinated when it is their turn.” 

With Purim coming up next week, Mr Zahawi also discussed “how the community will cope with festivals. Again, the community were beginning to get the message out - and I pay great tribute to the Ostro Foundation on this well – you can celebrate within the rules, within your own family or your bubble.  

“You can still dress up and express yourself in the way that you want to express yourself, but within the rules. It was great to see community leaders playing their part in getting that message across.” 

The Ostro Fayre Shayre Foundation last month received a £1.1 million grant from the government to help spread Covid awareness among religious communities through its Strengthening Faith Institutions project.

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