Volunteers out to bust Covid jab myths and false conspiracy theories

Ronke Okonkwo

Ronke Okonkwo, 53, a trained midwife and café owner from Upton Park, took the vaccine two weeks ago - Credit: Archant

An army of volunteers in the London borough with some of the highest Covid infection rates in the country told how they have been combatting anti-vaxxers.

Newham has enlisted the help of 450 volunteers from different backgrounds after health officials became worried about misinformation and vaccine uptake.

The 'Covid Champions' said they have heard dozens of rumours about the jab.

Director of Public Health Jason Strelitz said the council realised it needed to “strengthen community connections” in order to get across the ever-changing advice in 14 different languages.

The volunteers are organised by programme coordinator Anne Bowers who said some people in some communities had a mistrust of the jab.

Ronke Okonkwo, 53, a trained midwife and café owner from Upton Park, took the vaccine two weeks ago.

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She said: “Myself, my husband, my brothers, we had an argument about the vaccine and they were saying that their fears were about the long-term effects.

“I thought I’m part of the champions, I’m going to use myself as a guinea pig just to reassure them and if nothing happens to me then it is safe.

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"We need to educate more people about the vaccine, especially in ethnic minorities."

Tim Wood is a Covid champion

Tim Wood is a Covid champion - Credit: Archant

Tim Wood, 55, a church warden at St Martin’s in Plaistow, said: “I get people every day asking about the vaccine. There are two distinct groups.

“There are the absolute anti-vaxxers who have made up their minds it’s being used to control the world.

“Then you have got people who are just a bit scared who may have picked up the conspiracy theories and it is quite easy to talk to them in a calm way and point them to information.”

The Covid Champions are also helping educate people about safety during the pandemic and why rules are in place.

Krystian Suliga, nine, is raising awareness at school

Krystian Suliga, nine, is raising awareness at school - Credit: Archant

They can be any age. Nine-year-old Krystian Suliga-Oyenigba has signed up to spread factual information about the pandemic to his friends at Earlham Primary in Forest Gate using worksheets designed by volunteers.

“The fun part is they have the knowledge and then pass it on to friends and family,” his father said. “The basic knowledge then spreads through the community.”

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