Making Covid-19 vaccinations mobile to reach our local community

Our Primary Care Network (PCN), known as Network 4, consists of nine GP sites in South Gloucestershire. We have been vaccinating our patients from our Downend Health Group (Christchurch) site since December 2020, with thousands having passed through the doors. However, our patient data showed that there were pockets of people in our area who were either totally unvaccinated or had not had their second doses. At Network 4, we know the community well and where to go to find people who might not have been vaccinated.

We know there are many reasons people may be unsure about getting vaccinated or having their first dose, including concerns about side effects, feeling that Covid-19 wouldn’t seriously affect them, or simply taking longer to decide whether to have the vaccine. We wanted to give people a chance to talk with us about their concerns.
We also know that working patterns and lack of transport were also factors in limiting access to vaccination. So, we decided to take the show on the road – literally.

Our local Covid-19 Vaccination Programme’s outreach team offered us use of a St John’s Ambulance mobile vaccination clinic and we began a series of pop-up outreach clinics in January 2022.

People power

Collaboration proved invaluable. South Gloucestershire Council and local businesses and organisations really got behind our efforts. With the assistance of the manager and staff at Longwell Green Leisure Centre, we advertised that we’d be popping up on their social media channels. And, unbeknown to us, a local school emailed their parents which resulted in a 75% increase in vaccinations given on that day compared with our previous effort.

Other local organisations who got behind our community mobile vaccination effort include Morrisons in Fishponds, Asda Longwell Green, and Yate Shopping Centre. Sadly, our attempt to engage with the DIY-ers of B&Q was scuppered by Eunice…Storm Eunice, that is!

Major successes in the uptake of vaccinations came from having a presence in in supermarket car parks. Our ability to park up, engage with shoppers, allow them to make their decision in their own time – usually have a chat, do their shop, come back to us and be vaccinated – was very helpful in giving people an opportunity to take up the vaccination offer.

Magnetic attraction

Although the ambulance was visible, it wasn’t clear that we were offering vaccinations and the pull-up banners we had kept blowing over in a slight breeze! The Vaccination Programme communications team solved this problem with magnetic signs for the sides of the ambulance which improved engagement from the public, and markedly increased the number of vaccinations we delivered. You really couldn’t miss us in a car park!

Lessons learned

Making a vaccination clinic work on four wheels wasn’t without its challenges. This was a very different way for a PCN to work and staffing and logistics were more complicated than we had imagined, but the impact we had on vaccinations in our community made it all worthwhile. We reached 337 members of the public who may not have been able, or wanted, to go to out of their way to a vaccination clinic. This included 33 first doses.

The feedback from the people we vaccinated was that they found it convenient, and the mobile clinic enabled them to get their vaccination whilst they were going about their daily business.

Was the clinic a success?

Vaccinating some of the most vulnerable and hard to reach members of our community wouldn’t have been possible without this approach. Staff members from our PCN were also able to engage with some of the misinformation surrounding the vaccine which was incredibly useful in breaking down barriers, and keeping people safe from COVID-19.

Would we do it again?

Yes. Absolutely. Look out for us in a shopping centre near you during the summer! We look forward to meeting you.

Author – Joanna Ford, Orchard Medical Centre