Kingsbury mandir to be 'Europe's first' vaccine centre in Hindu temple

Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kingsbury in Snow

Kingsbury Temple is opening as the UK's first Hindu vaccination centre - Credit: Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kingsbury

A Hindu temple in Kingsbury believes it will be the first in Europe to open as a Covid vaccination centre this week, with aims to immunise more than 1,300 people a day.

The multi-function hall at Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kingsbury, in Kingsbury Road, will open its doors to the public tomorrow (January 28). 

Kingsbury Temple multifunctional hall

Kingsbury Temple's multi-functional hall is ready for use to vaccinate the public - Credit: Kingsbury Temple

The hall has been provided to Harness Care, a group of 20 GP practices working together to run the vaccination programme for Brent residents.

Staff, excited at its opening, have been searching the internet to see if the temple is indeed the first in Europe to open as a vaccine centre and have so far found none.

A recent Royal Society of Public Health poll suggested only just over half of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people would be happy to have
the coronavirus vaccine, compared to nearly 80 per cent of white respondents.

NHS England has said it fears disinformation could cause some in the UK's South Asian communities to reject the jab altogether.

Vials of Astra/Zeneca

Boxes of Astra/Zeneca as Kingsbury Temple opens its doors as a vaccination centre - Credit: Kingsbury Temple

Dr Sachin Patel, GP and chair of Harness Care, said: “This centre will send an unequivocal message to the Hindu and wider South Asian community that the vaccine is safe and permitted.

"We’re thankful to Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kingsbury for the leading role they are playing to help us access these communities in a meaningful way.

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"While Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kingsbury is the first Hindu temple to take this initiative, we certainly don’t expect it to be the last.”

Vials of Astra/Zeneca

Vials of Astra/Zeneca as Kingsbury Temple opens its doors as a vaccination centre - Credit: Kingsbury Temple

Prime Minister Boris Johnson opened the temple in 2014 while he was mayor of London. The mandir was hailed as the world’s first eco-temple and hoping to “inspire the
community”.

The temple hosts regular fundraisers and blood donation sessions, the latter of which has continued during the pandemic.

Acharya Swamishree Maharaj

Kingsbury Temple founder Acharya Swamishree Maharaj - Credit: Kingsbury Temple

The temple’s latest charitable venture has been inspired by its founder, Acharya Shree Purushottampriyadasji Swamishree Maharaj, who instilled community members with the tenet “society before self”.

By receiving vaccinations, individuals play a key part in stopping the spread of coronavirus and keeping local communities safe from Covid-19.

Temple trustee Dr Mahesh Varsani, an immunologist and researcher in cell and gene therapies, said: “This centre aims to carry out thousands of vaccinations a week, while at the same time address any concerns people may have.

"Everything we know about the vaccine is that it is safe and effective, and none of its components or manufacturing processes contravenes Hindu doctrine. Some members of the South Asian community may have longstanding concerns that tend to go back generations.

"But in the same way, this temple, through the messaging of Acharya Swamishree Maharaj starting in 2000, dispelled myths about Hindus donating body organs and blood; we will do the same for these vaccines.”

He continued: “This vaccination centre has been inspired by the temple’s founder, Acharya Swamishree Maharaj, and strongly encouraged by our current spiritual leader Acharya Shree Jitendriyapriyadasji Swamiji Maharaj, who himself has registered to receive the vaccine in India.

"Through this, he aims to dispel false information that the vaccine is somehow forbidden for Hindus and he has been encouraging all people to selflessly take the vaccine as it becomes offered.”

Vaccination cubicles

Kingsbury Temple's hall has cubicles lining the walls as it opens as a vaccination centre - Credit: Kingsbury Temple

The temple community is pulling together once again in taking on the operational planning and implementation support, along with IT and logistics.

Community members have also stepped forward as volunteers for stewarding as well as administering vaccines to relieve pressure off NHS
staff.

Everything is ready, including cubicles lining the room and posters reminding people of the coronavirus advice to wash hands, wear a mask and make space in order to protect each other.

Vaccines have arrived and socially distanced chairs arranged for people to sit on.

Darshna Patel, vaccine programme manager, GP pharmacist and active member of the temple community, will be administering vaccines at the temple.

She echoed the importance of tackling false information being spread on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.

“We are doing this to encourage people to say 'yes' to this vaccine, which is a global triumph for British science, innovation and medicine," she said.

"And we, as a temple, are saying ‘no’ to the fake and damaging news about it."

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