BNSSG Covid-19 Vaccination Programme: Closing the gap in Covid-19 vaccination uptake through community collaboration
In November 2020, at the outset of the Covid-19 Vaccination Programme, we analysed Public Health intelligence and conducted research with our system’s Citizen’s Panel. This provided early insight that in addition to being disproportionately affected by Covid-19, people from some Minority Ethnic communities would be less likely to get vaccinated. The scale and urgency of the challenge gave the BNSSG Covid-19 Vaccination Programme permission to try new ways of working and led to the creation of its Maximising Access Group to address inequalities in access.
Rather than imposing rigid ways of working onto communities, our Maximising Access Group approach was to shape local vaccination services at a neighbourhood level by removing barriers to access and participation. We planned a series of Covid-19 vaccination clinics in trusted community and religious settings, run with multiple stakeholders, supported, and guided by communities as equal partners. The impact of these clinics was amplified by collaborative initiatives that considered cultural, social, structural and religious factors. This approach was transformative and became our model for community vaccination.
Our system partners, including GPs and Sirona care & health have been essential to this way of working, and we used and learnt from their expertise. For example, we built a strong partnership with Bristol City Council’s Community Development Teams, who have worked with community leaders on tackling inequalities for years and were already highly trusted.
Our Maximising Access work, supported by local relationships, has overseen more than 47,000 vaccinations in community outreach settings including mosques, temples, churches, as well as Amazon, Primark, IKEA, job centres and abattoirs, and from a backpack, roving the streets of Bristol Inner City. We have seen the gap in Covid vaccination narrow between people from some minority ethnic communities and inclusion health groups, compared with uptake among people from a White British background.
Our work was recognised by the Health Services Journal when we won the Improving Health Outcomes for Minority Health Ethnic Communities Award at the 2022 HSJ Patient Safety Awards. The HSJ Award judges said: “…this was a simple but effective, inspirational project. The team highlighted embedded health inequalities and brought them to the surface so that these could be addressed by the rest of the NHS – a real system approach.”
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