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Community engagement leads to success in increasing Covid vaccine uptake

by Julie Griffiths
1 August 2022

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An initiative in West Yorkshire improved the uptake of a Covid booster among ethnically diverse population groups living in a deprived area by more than 100%.  

The project was included in a guide, Tackling Inequalities in Healthcare Access, Experience and Outcomes, which was commissioned by The Health Foundation and NHS England and published last week.  

The initiative aimed to increase vaccine uptake among ethnically diverse communities across Airedale, which are some of the most socio-economically diverse areas in the country. It focused on better understanding the concerns people had that made them reluctant to have the vaccine.

The target population was Central Keighley communities in areas of significant levels of deprivation that included a large ethnic minority population, mainly Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Eastern European residents.

When compared to the vaccination uptake rates of practices working in similarly deprived communities across the district, the programme showed it had been successful in increasing uptake of both vaccinations and booster.

Compared with the lowest uptake of 54.1% in the area of Brown Royd for the first vaccination, Keighley Central achieved 67.4%. For the second vaccination, Keighley Central saw a vaccination rate of 58.6% in contrast to the lowest rate of 47.7% in Central Bradford.

And Keighley Central had a booster rate of 33.6%, which was a 114% rise compared with the lowest rate of 15.7% uptake in Brown Royd.

The initiative involved working closely with voluntary and community sector (VCS) networks with 28 staff from the local VCS seconded into the Modality Primary Care Network (PCN).

Health coaches, partly funded using PCN underspend monies, had around 800 conversations with patients, focusing on those who had declined the vaccine, needed extra help or had not been contactable.  They also promoted vaccination in their communities and worked with community leaders to dispel anti-vaccination myths.

Pop-up vaccination clinics were set-up across a range of community and faith settings, such as mosques, a Muslim community centre, Bangladeshi community centre, and an Asian Women centre where there was a female-only vaccination event.

The guide, which was co-written by the Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network with an expert reference group, included several case studies of programmes that sought to reduce inequalities.

Other case studies included an initiative in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, which aimed to find and support people at higher risk of developing heart failure due to health inequalities.

And there was a pilot in Coventry to recruit healthcare assistants to improve the physical outcomes of patients with severe mental illness through annual health checks and follow-up support. This included engagement with health-promoting activities provided by the voluntary and community sector.

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