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LONDON: A mosque is among dozens of new vaccination hubs that have opened in the UK to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to the nation’s most vulnerable people.

By partnering with the National Health Service (NHS) and local pharmacies, the Al-Abbas Islamic Centre in Birmingham has become the first mosque in the UK to provide its premises as part of the country’s vaccination drive.

Sheikh Nuru Mohammed, the mosque’s imam, told Arab News that he and his congregation are delighted to be taking part in the UK’s vaccination drive.

“It means a lot to us. It has presented us the opportunity to contribute to the fight against coronavirus,” he said.

“Members of my community were elated, excited to take a practical step against the pandemic. People are moved about it, without a doubt.”

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Mohammed said the move is important in countering some of the fake news surrounding vaccines that has been circulating in some minority communities in the UK.

“It’s crucial that we send a strong, positive signal toward the vaccine among our community,” he added. “Some Muslims are of the view that the vaccine’s ingredients aren’t halal — we’re doing this to show that this is fake news, and the most practical way of doing this is to take it into the mosque.”

NHS engagement lead Claire Deeley told Arab News that the mosque has the advantage of already being a trusted community hub.

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“It’s very busy. It’s fully booked for the next few days,” she said. “It’s an ideal space right within the community — we’re really pleased.”

The mosque’s dimensions have made it a perfect place to safely deliver vaccines. With two large halls, each with a capacity of over 500 people, visitors are received and check in for their vaccines in one, before moving into the other to receive their jabs.

Social distancing is possible because of the large spaces, and the parking capacity for worshippers means the mosque can facilitate the high numbers of people arriving to receive their vaccines.

Carpets have been covered with vinyl flooring to protect them and provide a safe environment.

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“It’s fantastic to see the vaccine program expand so fast,” said Nadim Zahawi, the UK’s minister for vaccine deployment. “Each week the NHS is making it easier for people to get a jab closer to home, in places at the heart of their community, from the local pharmacy to the local mosque.”

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