It’s coming up to a year since the pandemic started in the UK. We are seeing the strain in our lives, missing loved ones, children coping with home schooling, social isolation and hospital workers burning out, etc. But the vaccine will change all that if we can bust the wild falsehoods and ensure all patients feel confident to get their jabs, says Regular NHD Dietitian's Life columnist, Louise Robertson, RD.
We are starting to see glimmers of hope. One key to taking us out of the pandemic is the COVID-19 vaccine. The NHS is now getting through the groups quite swiftly, vaccinating the most vulnerable first. We have just heard that our Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that all adults in the UK will be offered their first jabs by the end of July.
A ROYAL VISIT
Working for the NHS, I was privileged to have my first dose in early January at the new vaccine hub at our hospital. It was lovely to see the work of our hospital recognised with a visit to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham’s vaccine hub from The Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock on Wednesday 17th February. While there, they unveiled a plaque to say thank you to all the staff at the hospital.
We were proud to see in the press photos of our Inherited Metabolic Disorders (IMD) team pharmacist chatting to Prince Charles about preparing the vaccines in the hub!
BUSTING THE MYTHS
There are also concerns that not everybody offered the vaccine is taking it up. GPs have been raising concerns that there has been a low uptake among BAME patients.1
Evidence shows that COVID-19 is having a disproportionate impact on BAME patients, with ethnic minorities being more at risk from being severely ill and dying.2
There are a number of reasons for the low uptake, including the spread of false information on social media. One falsehood causing concern for some religious communities is that the vaccine contains pork and so is not halal.
The UK Government and religious associations3 have been working hard to dispel this myth to encourage more people to come forward for their jabs.
Even some of my own IMD patients have been worrying about whether they can safely have the vaccine or not. People with Phenylketonuria (PKU) are concerned that it contains egg or protein, so they think they can’t have it and people with Galactosaemia have worried that it contains lactose so would be unable to metabolise it. Luckily, we have had guidance from our professional society, the British Inherited Metabolic Disorders Group (BIMDG), which issued a frequently asked questions document on the vaccine for those with IMDs.4 They advise that all IMD patients should be able to safely have the jabs. This has enabled us to reassure our patients. In fact, from the reassurance we have been giving, many of our patients are now keen to get the vaccine as soon as they can , as they have spent so many months shielding and self-isolating.
Other patient societies and support groups have also provided clear information to their members on the safety of the vaccine. So, if you or your patients are worrying then most patient support groups will have information on their websites to debunk the scaremongering and falsehoods.
I hope that next time I write for the NHD blog we will be in a much better place. Until then, keep safe.
Louise Robertson RD
Specialist Dietitian in Inherited Metabolic Disorders,
Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham
Dietitian for the Galactosaemia Support Group UK,