An Oldham barber is one of many businesses across Greater Manchester set to arm themselves with the facts about Covid-19 to tackle misinformation about vaccination.

Patrick Scrivens, 49, a self-employed barber who operates out of Town Barber Too in Oldham Market, is backing a Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership-led campaign called VaccChat.

With the Covid-19 vaccine now being offered to younger groups (currently all those aged over 25) there are concerns that ‘vaccine hesitancy’ may be more prevalent due to the perception that the risk of serious illness from Covid-19 is lower in younger people.

And, although the NHS is delighted with the initial surge in demand for vaccines yesterday (Tuesday) as half a million life-saving jabs were booked just five hours after eligibility widened to those aged between 25 and 29, misinformation about the vaccine continues to spread on and off-line.

To tackle the issue, VaccChat has been created so everyone has trusted and accurate information to hand to allow them to make an informed decision about having the vaccine.

Health chiefs have produced handy cue cards for frontline professions like hairdressers, barbers and beauticians outlining the facts about the vaccine so these can be shared in conversations with members of the public, especially those aged 18-30. The facts about the vaccination will also be shared directly to the public in a social media campaign running across Instagram and TikTok.

Patrick, who became a barber straight from school at 15 and has had both jabs of a vaccine, has signed up to be an advocate for VaccChat. He said:

“Most of our customers come in wanting a chat and I love that about my job. It’s amazing the things people tell you! Our regulars often talk to us about things they’d probably never tell their family and friends. It’s a real privilege to have their trust and I take it seriously.

“Over the past year or so, more than ever, people want to talk about what’s going on in the world and what’s in the news. Covid-19 affects us all so everyone has an opinion. But that’s why it’s so important to get accurate and reliable information and talk things through.

“I’ve had both my jabs and so have the other two barbers working at Town Barber Too. I trust the NHS and want to protect myself, my family and my customers.”

Christine Khiroya, immunisations and screening lead at Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “We have created the VaccChat campaign as a way of providing the facts about the Covid-19 vaccination directly to younger people, in a different, more accessible way – via trusted contacts working in frontline professions such as hairdressers, barbers and beauticians.

“We hope that by providing the facts in a straight-talking and friendly way we can positively influence everyday conversations about the vaccine.”

There have now been in excess of 2.6 million vaccinations across Greater Manchester, with more than 1.6 million being first doses and more than 1 million second doses.

Christine added: “The pandemic is not over yet. So, we must all continue to play our part to reduce the spread by washing our hands regularly, minimising the number of people we have close contact with, letting fresh air into indoor spaces and doing regular lateral flow tests. If you are contacted by Track and Trace or receive a notification via the NHS Covid-19 App because you have come into contact with someone the virus, it is still essential that you self-isolate at home.

“Please take up the offer when it’s your turn to have the vaccine. The Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective. They give you the best protection against the virus.”

Any businesses wishing to take part are encouraged to visit the VaccChat webpage at gmhsc.org.uk/VaccChat to find out more and to download promotional materials. A competition is running on social media – look out for the hashtag #VaccChat for details.

GMHSCP immuni
GMHSCP immunisations lead, Christine Khiroya launches the VaccChat campaign

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