Southsea’s Jami Mosque opened its doors to the community, becoming the latest site to offer residents their first jab in a one-off event.
People queued outside the Victoria Road North mosque for most of the day, with about 250 locals being vaccinated.
About 30 volunteers from the mosque and Portsmouth HIVE marshalled people to one of two vaccination bays set up inside the temple.
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In an effort that has garnered praise from city leaders, GPs from the Portsdown Group Practice were able to jab one person every two minutes.
Among the first to receive their injection was Charlotte Cooper, who was full of praise for the team at the Jami.
The 43-year-old housewife from Southampton said: ‘It was very well put together. The organisation was great and the people were really friendly and welcoming.
‘I didn’t even know I had the injection done. It was very painless and very quick. It feels absolutely wonderful to have my vaccine.’
Dr Ebadur Chowdhury, a GP at Portsdown Group Practice, was part of the team dishing out the vaccine.
He said: ‘I feel incredibly proud and privileged to be part of this vaccination programme.
‘It’s been quite busy, so I’ve been giving people vaccines every two and a half minutes.
‘Everyone has been coming forward. It’s like a festival feeling in here. People are so happy.’
One of the main focuses of the new centre is to try and encourage people of ethnic backgrounds to receive their jab.
Research, published earlier this year, revealed 72 per cent of black or black British people said they were unlikely or very unlikely to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Those from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds were the next most hesitant minority ethnic group, with 42 per cent unlikely or very unlikely to be vaccinated.
Dr Chowdhury added: ‘There’s less vaccine uptake in the BAME population so we’re trying to encourage people to come forward and have the vaccination which is not just protecting yourself, but your family, your friends and the rest of society.’
Mahbub Choudhury, assistant secretary at the mosque, was leading the three teams of volunteers who were helping to reassure people.
The 40-year-old said: ‘What we have noticed is that a lot of people who were quite sceptical about having the vaccine felt a lot more comfortable now it’s being done here.
‘We even had a few people, who were over 50 and should have already have had their vaccine weeks ago but haven’t, coming and doing it now because it’s being done at the mosque.
‘It’s been a great thing and a great opportunity for people who haven’t had their vaccine yet or who are a bit hesitant about getting it done.’
Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan attended the opening and praised the mosque for its efforts.
He said: ‘It’s got to be a national effort to make sure everyone across the country gets the vaccine and I’ve been really impressed by different facilities that have been springing up across Portsmouth.
‘This mosque is on so many people’s doorsteps so it’s really good we have got this facility in Portsmouth that’s open to everyone.’
Sumel Chowdhury, is co-ordinator of the United Muslim Community Group in Portsmouth.
He added: ‘When we set up this vaccination hub we said clearly this vaccination hub was not only for the Muslim people or for the BAME people – it’s for everyone. Everyone is welcome here.’