Concern over Covid-19 conspiracies in Sunderland and potential impact on booster vaccines

Concerns have been raised by councillors over Covid-19 “conspiracy theories” being spread discouraging residents from receiving a booster jab.

Sunderland health chiefs stressed they continue to push out positive messaging around the Covid-19 autumn booster vaccinations encouraging eligible residents to receive one.

The autumn booster jabs are being offered to everyone aged 50 and over, some people in high risk groups and health and social care workers.

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However at the latest meeting of the city council health and wellbeing scrutiny committee on Tuesday (November 29) concerns were raised over individuals spreading negative conspiracies linked to the vaccination.

Those eligible are being encouraged to get their booster jabs.

Councillor Pam Mann, St Anne’s ward representative and Covid-19 champion, said: “There’s conspiracy theories going around, it concerns me that people aren’t picking up the booster.

“What are we doing to get over that?”

Lorraine Hughes, council public health consultant, responded noting they continue to encourage people to take up Covid-19 vaccines and dispel any myths raised.

She said: “I think it’s an issue generally, what we try to do is continuously push those correct messages out and note what we need to do.

“I think it’s just keep trying to do that, answer the questions, make sure we’re putting stuff out, using social media and doing the best we can.”

She added they recently carried out a Facebook live event around covid vaccinations to answer questions and queries around the jab, and urged anyone with uncertainties to get in touch.

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Councillors heard to date for the autumn booster there had been a 78.3% uptake for those aged 80 and over, while the rate was 79.4% in the 75 to 79 age group.

The highest uptake has been in the Washington South ward, with the lowest being in Hendon.

A report to the committee noted the uptake of the spring Covid-19 booster did not reach the level of previous boosters, which was “of concern particularly for care home residents”.

It added there is also an “inequity” in uptake of all Covid-19 vaccinations across wards in Sunderland, with the programme currently in the reinforcement stage with autumn boosters being offered to those most at risk.

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Councillors added health chiefs are visiting sites such as mosques, student venues and community hubs in an attempt to encourage hard to reach groups to take the vaccine.

Walk-in clinics for autumn booster vaccinations will be held at Riverview Health Centre on Saturday, December 3, from 9am until 1pm and at Millfield Health Centre on Sunday, December 4, from 8am until 1pm.

These clinics also offer ‘evergreen/catch-up’ vaccines for people who haven’t had any or all of their Covid-19 vaccines.