12 Jan Communications for all: boosting vaccines confidence and uptake in BAME communities
Yesterday, the Government published the UK Vaccines Delivery Plan, their roadmap to vaccinate around 11 million people in Britain by mid-February and, as the Government hopes, also a roadmap out of lockdown cycles and out of the political heat on its handling of the pandemic so far. That’s a lot of pressure on a single delivery plan.
Mass COVID-19 vaccination is a Herculean feat of public health logistics, accessibility and delivery is key to uptake. Communications is also central to the effort. At OVID Health with Deltapoll, we have been following the views and attitudes of the British public towards COVID-19 vaccines during the pandemic, providing us a peek behind the curtain of what the general public are really thinking. Attitudes are complex and hesitancy is more often interlinked with perceptions of risk, rather than the less common anti-vax sentiment that correlates with other values and attitudes such as trust in authority.
So, the Government is right to be tackling anti-vaxxers online and deploying trusted messengers such as NHS doctors to boost confidence. But as any good communicator will ask you, are you segmenting your audience? And in health communications if you don’t land a message you could be risking lives.
“A national communications framework for boosting vaccine confidence amongst the BAME population is overdue”
Research from PHE last year shows that being BAME puts you at greater risk of dying from COVID-19 than if you are white. The issue is compounded by figures revealed in a recent survey from the Royal Society for Public Health, showing only 57% of BAME respondents were likely to accept a COVID-19 vaccine compared to 79% of white respondents.
A national communications framework for boosting vaccine confidence amongst the BAME population is overdue and should be a focus for the Government if is aiming to succeed in delivering a vaccine programme that is far-reaching and equal. Across the many health organisations involved in the UK’s COVID-19 response (DHSC, NHS, PHE – we’ve all become very familiar with the acronyms) there is little publicly available research or communications materials for charities, businesses and communities to use on how to package public health messaging on vaccines for BAME communities.
Filling the space left by central Government, employers, communities and local authorities are leading the way. Here are 3 great examples:
At OVID Health we are working with a leading healthcare provider on building vaccine confidence and uptake amongst their team of frontline health and care worker, the majority are BAME staff. They commissioned us for a bespoke communications framework and material built targeted health messages that would nudge behaviour of a diverse workforce.
At city level the Mayor of Bristol has established the Race Equality COVID-19 Steering Group. With representatives from over 30 organisations working in BAME health or with BAME communities, the Group provides leadership in tackling race equality issues related to COVID-19 and explores how to implement a number of policy recommendations aimed at addressing the disproportionate impact of COVID-19. The group has become a channel for evidence based public health communications with hard-to-reach communities. Working with the local CCG and Health and Well-Being Board, vaccine confidence material is being developed for use on popular platforms like WhatsApp. A webinar is being hosted with BAME doctors and trusted figures who “look like us” to talk about vaccines trials and roll out.
“Communicating vaccines confidence to BAME communities requires standard good practice communications: the right messages, the right messengers on the right channels”
In the voluntary and community sector, The Muslim Council of Britain has experience of collaborating with partners on flu vaccination uptake. Throughout the pandemic they have hosted online guidance on a range of topics including vaccines, proving automatic updates on new guidance via a number of channels, including WhatsApp. The MCB project Operation Vaccination also gave its support to the British Islamic Medical Association’s position paper on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, recommending the vaccine to eligible at-risk members of the UK Muslim community and addressing culturally sensitive concerns by consulting with Islamic scholars.
Communicating vaccines confidence to BAME communities requires standard good practice communications: the right messages, the right messengers on the right channels. What has proved elusive has been a willingness, leadership and resourcing to deliver this. To learn the lessons of the pandemic and mobilise to close down on health inequalities that affect the UK’s BAME population starkly brought in the spotlight by COVID-19, we need the willingness to act now.
If you would like to find out more about our work on the COVID-19 pandemic or have a project you would like to discuss with us, please contact OVID here.