Work by one CCG team to promote vaccine safety among hard to reach communities has been recognised nationally, with a telephone call from His Royal Highness, the Duke of Cambridge.

As part of Kensington Palace’s official update on the Duke’s programme of calls to NHS front line workers, Walsall practice manager Shamraze (Sham) Zeb was interviewed by Hello! magazine on his reaction to his Royal telephone call, and his story has been covered in several national publications.

Since the start of the year, The Duke has spoken to more than 300 staff and volunteers spanning the breadth of the NHS’s workforce, via a series of one-to-one phone calls and participation in regional video meetings. The Duke wanted to check in on the wellbeing of all those supporting the NHS at this time, and to thank them for the vital part they are playing in the UK’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Duke spoke about vaccine hesitancy with Sham (pictured), who is operational lead for the Walsall South 1 Primary Care Network team running vaccinations at Forrester Street Surgery. Sham has played a key role in organising pop-up vaccination sessions in local Mosques and Gurdwaras.DrSham3.jpg

Speaking during his interview with Hello! Royal Editor Emily Nash, Sham said: “He (the duke) asked me about the uptake in the mosque and how it went and I explained to him that we had patients that had declined previously, but they turned up at the mosque just because of public trust.

“We had a conversation about how he was aware of, the vaccine hesitancy, but he was saying that the more factual information we can get out into the media and into different channels that will help the cause and he said that it was fantastic that me and my team are going out and doing these initiatives to increase the uptake.”

William also surprised Sham’s daughters Safah, 13, and Hawwa, 12, by saying hello to them and their mum Attia during the call.

“It was a really proud moment for me really,” said Sham, “They were saying, ‘Dad, he said my name!’ He said hello to them, which was a really nice touch.

“He was very interested in seeing how I was coping and you know the pressure it had on me and obviously my family life and so forth.

“It’s been full on, I have to work in the evenings from home and I have to work on the weekends to catch up on work and so forth but it’s become part and parcel of the way I work now for the last year. So it is added pressure, but I’m sure a lot of people are doing that just to make things happen.

“Me speaking to the Prince, that was the most exciting thing that’s ever going to happen to me I think, but it was really pleasing, you know, all the hard work you do, and then to be recognised by the Duke of Cambridge was a really proud moment.”

In Walsall, it was identified early in the vaccination programme that uptake was lower among some communities, so Sham and the South 1 team decided to reach out into the local area, working with faith leaders to send a clear message about vaccine safety at a grassroots level.

The Walsall team credits this outreach activity for a 20% increase in vaccine uptake in certain groups, including many patients who previously declined a vaccine.

Aisha Mosque and Darbar Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji were the first places of worship to host vaccination sessions, but since then all five Places in BCWB have held pop-up sessions to forge links with local communities and improve uptake.

Currently, the vaccine is available to anyone aged over 50, anyone who has an underlying health condition such as diabetes or asthma, and anyone who works in the health and care sectors or is a named carer for another person.

To find out the latest information about how and where to get your vaccine, visit https://blackcountrywestbirminghamcovidvaccine.co.uk/