£23 million funding given to councils to combat Covid misinformation

25 January 2021, 05:36

The Government is aiming to counter misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine and boost take-up of the jab
The Government is aiming to counter misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine and boost take-up of the jab. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The Government is making £23 million available to councils in England to help counter misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine and boost take-up of the jab.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said it was being targeted at areas with plans to reach out to groups such as older people, disabled people, and people from ethnic minority backgrounds who are more likely to suffer long-term impacts and poor outcomes from the virus.

Officials said each of the 60 councils chosen to receive funding through the community champions scheme have developed plans to improve communications with these groups.

They include helplines, school programmes, workplace engagement, phoning those in at-risk groups as well as training sessions to help people provide information and advice.

Senior NHS figures have previously expressed concern that people in some black and Asian communities are reluctant to take up the vaccine - either for religious reasons or past concerns about "unethical" experiments carried out in the last century.

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The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said that the groups they were seeking to support included Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities as well as faith groups.

Mr Jenrick said: "False information about Covid-19 vaccines could cost lives.

"Today's funding will help councils and community groups expand some of the excellent work already under way and reach out to their communities to ensure they have the information they need and get their questions answered.

"Ultimately this funding will help save lives."

It comes after the UK was seen to be rapidly speeding up the vaccination process, with a new record-high number of 491,970 first doses administered in just 24 hours on Sunday, taking the total number who have received a first dose to 6.35 million.

The news of the expanding number of the population have some protection against the virus has come with a warning, as Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van Tam last night warning those who have had the jab may still be able to spread Covid-19.

Urging people to continue to follow lockdown rules, Professor Van Tam said: “Through the vaccination programme, millions of the most vulnerable to COVID-19 are being given significant protection from this virus - a fantastic achievement."

“However, regardless of whether someone has had their vaccination or not, it is vital that everyone follows the national restrictions and public health advice, as protection takes up to 3 weeks to kick in and we don’t yet know the impact of vaccines on transmission.

“The vaccine is rightly something to celebrate - let’s stay patient, stay at home and support the NHS as it continues to roll out the vaccine.”

His warning comes as the Prime Minister warned a new Covid-19 variant first seen in London and the South East could be deadlier than the original virus.

Scientists have warned there can be no early easing of lockdown rules because of the new variant.