The Government's vaccine minister has praised churches for their contribution to the successful rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination programme across the UK.
Nadhim Zahawi was speaking at the Give Hope campaign event held online last night by YourNeighbour and supported by all of the mainstream Christian denominations.
During the discussion, church leaders were urged to educate themselves about the vaccine in order to keep their congregations properly informed.
They also heard concerns around vaccine mistrust, especially in black and minority ethnic communities.
Zahawi said, "Eighty-five per cent of adults say they will or are likely to take the vaccine, but the fifteen per cent who are hesitant skew heavily to black African, black Caribbean and Asian communities.
"Through collaboration with local government, community leaders and faith leaders we can share best practice.
"We want every eligible person to benefit from a free vaccine, regardless of their ethnicity or religious beliefs. Effective vaccines are the best way to protect people from coronavirus and will save thousands of lives."
YourNeighbour's Give Hope campaign is being supported by the Bishop of Dover, Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, Salvation Army Commissioner Anthony Cotterill, and Evangelical Alliance CEO Gavin Calver among others.
It was launched at a time when many churches and cathedrals up and down the country are serving as vaccination hubs.
The campaign is encouraging church leaders, particularly within the black community, to have conversations with their congregations and in their communities to dispel fake news and allay fears around the Covid-19 vaccine.
Zahawi continued, "Church is a place of trust and church leaders have been doing incredible work - thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have been doing.
"If you, as church leaders, feel yourself you have asked the questions and have received the answers, you can share that with your congregation. It's a more powerful message if they hear it from you.
"We are hugely grateful for the efforts of local churches in promoting the Covid-19 vaccines across the country, and we recognise and support the vital role churches play in helping to reach our communities."
Bishop Butler, who is Chair of the YourNeighbour Advisory Group, said faith communities and faith leaders had a vital role to play in the vaccination drive.
"The development of a number of Covid vaccines is miraculous, an answer to our prayers," he said.
"Local communities encouraging one another are key in helping everyone understand why being vaccinated is important for everyone when their opportunity comes."
Church resources can be found at www.yourneighbour.org.