HALF of people in Oldham have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, despite anti-vaxx conspiracy theories threatening the borough’s battle against Covid-19.

Oldham council’s leader, Arooj Shah, admitted the borough had “naturally faced some challenges” as part of the vaccine rollout programme but that local leaders, engagement teams and pop-up vaccination clinics had ensured residents were “well-informed”.

It comes as false claims that the vaccine is a means of inserting microchips into the population and altering DNA, continue to circulate across social media.

Among the local leaders who have acted to counter the Covid-19 vaccine narrative, is doctor and councillor Zahid Chauhan, the cabinet member for health and social care.

After being “inundated with questions about chip, insertion, changing DNA etc” amid spiralling Covid-19 cases in January he spoke out.

“The vaccines do not contain gelatine or pork derivatives so that should put the Jewish, Muslim and vegetarian/vegan community’s mind at rest.

“Furthermore, there is no chip involved in the vaccine process to monitor people. This is another example of anti-vaxx, no mask, Covid hoax conspiracy that has no basis in fact,” he said.

That same month, Dr Chauhan backed an Oldham scheme to prioritise giving rough sleepers the Covid vaccine in a UK first.

A clinic was organised at the Depaul UK homeless shelter in Oldham where around 30 people were given administered the jab.

Dr Chauhan said: “It is setting an example for the rest of the country, rest of the world, and saying, ‘Please, please don’t ignore these people.’”

A month earlier in December 2020, a survey asked local Muslims if they would accept the vaccine if it were offered to them – 28 per cent said yes, 22 per cent said they were unsure and 50 per cent said they would not take it.

In response Oldham Mosques Council (OMC) urged prominent members of the community to attend workshops to educate them on the vaccine and on the Islamic point of view of taking it.

Despite efforts by local community leaders rumours and hesitancy around the Covid-19 vaccine have continued to persist.

It comes as fears rise that low vaccine uptake could slow the race against the virus as the dominant "Indian variant", now known as the Delta variant, claims more cases.

The Oldham council’s doorstep engagement teams, who hit the borough’s streets each week to inform residents of the vaccine facts and how they can book their appointments, are part of the borough’s weaponry against vaccine hesitancy.

This month a campaign by The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership also launched to combat misinformation on the jab.

The VaccChat campaign involves businesses that speak with customers regularly such as barbers and beauticians encouraging people to take up the offer of being given the vaccine.

Oldham has waged a largely successful campaign to confront false rumors and hesitancy about the Covid-19 vaccine among residents.

Today, more than 130,000 registered patients in the borough have so far received their first dose and over 90,000 having had their second jab.

Leader of Oldham Council Arooj Shah, who led the council’s Covid-19 response, said: “From equipping our local leaders with the knowledge they need to discuss the vaccine confidently within their community, to our doorstep engagement teams going out every week to inform residents of the vaccine facts and how they can book their appointments, and our pop-up vaccination clinics, we are doing everything we can to ensure our residents are well-informed and have enough opportunities to say yes to the jab.”