TRIALS of Covid-19 vaccines are due to start in Bradford later this year, but there are growing fears about anti-vax conspiracy theories which have "flourished" during the pandemic. 

Professor John Wright, an epidemiologist based at the Bradford Royal Infirmary (BRI) has played a major role in the city's response to the crisis. 

Sharing his frontline view in a diary for the BBC, he said: "The numbers of hospital patients continue to slowly decline, almost down to single figures this week.

"There is great relief in the hospital, tempered by the inevitability of a further spike of infection. We know of the warning from Game of Thrones - winter is coming - and never before has that phrase been so ominous.

"The prediction of a second wave of Covid-19 in January, with the added layer of an influenza epidemic, is our worst fear. So we will be working hard to make sure we vaccinate as many people for flu as we can in the autumn."

The Bradford Institute of Health Research is one of just five national centres for patient recruitment to clinical trials.

One trial, of the Moderna vaccine, will start in September, and there will be further trials of other candidate vaccines after that.

But he said it's important to "win the support of the public", so people sign up to the trials.

At the heart of this is fighting back against some of growing false news stories, which Prof Wright has detailed in his diary.

He said: "In Bradford we recruited 12,500 pregnant women into a cohort study between 2007 and 2010, and have been monitoring the health of their children ever since.

"We have started to offer some of them antibody testing, and have been picking up on ideas such as, 'You're putting a microchip in us' or 'This is all a plot'.

"This is clearly something we need to understand and deal with ahead of the vaccine trials."

He also wrote about a healthcare assistant at the hospital, who didn't want to be named, who has seen Covid patients on the ward, but still believes many of the conspiracy theories online and will not watch 'mainstream media' reports.

She said she feels there's a "big lie in the world". 

Giselle Rwegema, is a TB nurse at St Luke's Hospital and does volunteer work with East African refugees.

She said many believe that the vaccine is "a way of getting rid of black people" and a video claiming the vaccine would be trialled on very poor people in Africa was shared by millions.

One young mother, Corrine, said she would not have a vaccine.

She said: "Because obviously, me being black and everything that we know about the work that's going on to just take a black number down - that's been going on for years and I wouldn't take it just based on that, because there are so many things that will be hidden in the vaccine."

Meanwhile, A&E ward sister Emma Clinton told the story of one Asian gentleman in his early 60s. 

He was afraid to go to hospital and by the time his family called an ambulance, was already dying and passed away in the department with an hour.

She said: "And then of course the family were absolutely distraught. The son was saying, 'What lethal injection did you give him? How has he died? Have you killed him?'" 

Prof Wright said it's important to understand why people feel that way.

He said: "Rather than just shouting from the hospital, "It's OK, everything's fine." We need to understand where these rumours and false news stories are coming from and then an understanding about how we counteract them. And I think that's a long-term journey."

One plan is to get some Covid patients, those from communities who are most suspicious and who have had good experiences, to be ambassadors.