Charity boss received 'backlash' after promoting Covid vaccine to ethnic minority groups

Charity director Alfred Oyekoya campaigned to encourage those from ethnic minority backgrounds to get the Covid vaccine.

At the height of the Covid pandemic, Alfred Oyekoya found himself facing some serious accusations.

"Some people thought I had become an agent of the government", the 38-year-old civil servant said.

The Nigerian-born charity director of BAME Mental Health Support in Swansea has long fought for equality in access to public health.

18 months ago he began a campaign to encourage people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds to take up the Covid vaccine.

Wales has administered more than 2,568,243 first doses of the Covid vaccine - 81% of the population. Credit: PA Images

Alfred felt the only way to convince people was to prove, beyond doubt, that he had received his Covid vaccination.

Armed with his camera, he persuaded nurses at the Swansea Bay vaccination centre to take a photo of him getting his shot.

"At that time, no one was showing themselves as an example for taking up the vaccine," Alfred recalled.

"That's why I ensured my experience was documented.

"We used that photo to educate the people that we provide services for and to tell them 'please go take up the vaccine, it works'.

"I'm just so happy as many of my friends say they have only taken up the vaccine because they saw me having it."

64% of Wales' population have received a third dose of the vaccine. Credit: PA Images

Alfred teamed up with Swansea Bay University Health Board to target people who were seeking sanctuary or had just settled in Wales.

The partnership also informed those unable to communicate in English or Welsh and those who didn't understand how the health system worked or were distrustful of it.

Through a social media campaign, they were able to encourage more people to take up the vaccine in Swansea.

Despite this success, Alfred said he faced a number of challenges when trying to engage with people.

"It was a risk because I got a lot of backlash," he said. 

"Some people even thought maybe I had become an agent of the government to disseminate information that you shouldn't be disseminating. If you look back, a lot of people were sceptical, even now.

"In my experience of the Polio vaccination in Africa, we know that a vaccination rollout has to be driven from the bottom up. Community leaders have to be actively involved in driving home the message."

Alfred was invited to meet some of the Britain's Got Talent judges as a result of his work promoting the jab.

With cases of Covid now rising in Wales, Alfred is once again encouraging people to get their Covid vaccinations and booster shots when offered them.

Alfred and his family were recently invited to London by Simon Cowell to meet backstage at the Britain's Got Talent auditions, in response to the work Alfred had done in helping people to get vaccinated.

Alfred said it was a dream come true to meet one of his heroes in person.

"He sent transport to pick us up from our home, including my wife and my children and we had a very good experience. We still talk about it now! I'm a big fan of X Factor also and Simon is a shining light."