By Fatima Patel

Sunderland pharmacist who has worked in Sunderland for more than 30 years, is pleading with the South Asian community to ‘have faith’ in the Covid vaccine.

Pharmacist Umesh Patel, who has worked in Sunderland for more than 30 years and is a mentor to Pharmacy students at the University of Sunderland, shared how his own employees have refused to take the vaccine.

He told Asian Standard: “I asked my staff, in an open request that here you are, you must take this [Covid] vaccine because it is important for you. You are actually in a short cut way of getting it. Two of them refused, despite me telling them how important it is they refused. One of them is diabetic.

“The reason they are denying it, and I think the Asian community should not take this lightly is that this is a very deadly disease. It doesn’t look at your religion, whether you are Hindu, Muslim, Indian, Pakistani or Bengali, it will attack anyone if it gets a chance. I am urging people not to take a chance.”

Mr Patel graduated from the University of Sunderland in Pharmacy in 1978.

A year later, he became a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, playing an active part in many local campaigns within his profession.

He opened his first pharmacy in London in 1980 and ten years later moved to Sunderland where along with his family runs Leema Pharmacy on Tunstall Road.

Respected pharmacist Umesh Patel at his Leema Pharmacy on Tunstall Road in Sunderland. Credit: The University of Sunderland

In 2011 Mr Patel Umesh, received an MBE for his services to the profession and was appointed to the University of Sunderland’s Board of Governors the following year.

Now, he is urging everyone to take the pandemic seriously and to get vaccinated.

On being asked why he thinks people are refusing to take the vaccine he replied:

“They have no confidence in the vaccine, because they think it’s a short time invention. But remember MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) is a totally independent body. It is not influenced by Umesh Patel giving them bribes, back handers or money. They are not influenced by government or government funding. It is a totally independent organisation and they have vetted it.

“So, my plea to the Asian community is that if you want to se Eid, Diwali, if you want to celebrate Christmas go get this vaccine.”

The North East’s health bosses have also recently warned of coronavirus rates ‘spiralling out of control is very real’.

In a statement released last week, North East directors of public health representing Newcastle, Gateshead, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland, and County Durham, urged people to stay at home as much as possible.

It said that infection rates across the region seemed to have stopped rising but it is not clear yet whether they will fall.

Here is the statement in full, from the LA7 Directors of Public Health.

“We are seeing that infection rates across the region look to have stopped rising but it is not yet clear if they will plateau – as we saw in October – or fall. Either way, the current rates remain too high for comfort and we need to see further progress.

“People across the region are staying at home and only having essential social contact with others outside their household or support bubble and we thank them for doing so.

“Our hospitals are still under immense pressure supporting increasing numbers of patients becoming seriously ill, and with the more transmissible variant of the virus now accounting for up to 60% of the current cases, we must still follow the regulations at all times.

“Remarkable progress is being made with the vaccination roll out and many of our most vulnerable residents have received at least their first dose already. However, while huge proportions of the population remain unprotected, the danger of rates spiralling out of control is still very real.

“We must all continue to stay at home except for the permitted exemptions, maintain hand hygiene, social distancing and the use of face coverings and do everything we can to prevent our NHS services from becoming overwhelmed.

“Whether or not tighter restrictions are needed in the future will be decided by Government based on the national picture, but for now, we must carry on staying at home and keep driving infection rates down.”

Wendy Burke, Director of Public Health, North Tyneside

Amanda Healy, Director Public Health, County Durham

Alice Wiseman, Director of Public Health, Gateshead

Eugene Milne, Director of Public Health, Newcastle

Liz Morgan, Director of Public Health, Northumberland

Tom Hall, Director of Public Health, South Tyneside