The Government has today published their guidance on the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination. The Joint Committee on Vaccine and Immunisation has reported how the first sent of vaccines will be distributed to the most vulnerable people first. As well as prioritising key health workers and the most vulnerable older people, the report also note that there is a need to ensure that the vaccine priorities people who are subject to economic and social deprivation. The report states:
“There is clear evidence that certain Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups have higher rates of infection, and higher rates of serious disease, morbidity and mortality. There is no strong evidence that ethnicity by itself (or genetics) is the sole explanation for observed differences in rates of severe illness and deaths. What is clear is that certain health conditions are associated with increased risk of serious disease, and these health conditions are often overrepresented in certain Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups. It is also clear that societal factors, such as occupation, household size, deprivation, and access to healthcare can increase susceptibility to COVID-19 and worsen outcomes following infection. These factors are playing a large role in the inequalities being seen with COVID-19.”
The report then goes on to identify that:
“Good vaccine coverage in Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups will be the most important factor within a vaccine programme in reducing inequalities for this group. Prioritisation of persons with underlying health conditions (see above) will also provide for greater vaccination of BAME communities who are disproportionately affected by such health conditions. The Committee’s advice is for NHS England and Improvement, the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England and the devolved administrations to work together to ensure that inequalities are identified and addressed in implementation. This could be through culturally competent and tailored communications and flexible models of delivery, aimed at ensuring everything possible is done to promote good uptake in Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups and in groups who may experience inequalities in access to, or engagement with, healthcare services. These tailored implementation measures should be applied across all priority groups during the vaccination programme.”
This is worth noting this point again. The government advisory body on vaccine distribution is recommending that all relevant organisations must
“Ensure that inequalities are identified and addressed in implementation. This could be through culturally competent and tailored communications and flexible models of delivery, aimed at ensuring everything possible is done to promote good uptake in Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups and in groups who may experience inequalities in access to, or engagement with, healthcare services.”
Based on this advice from the JCVI, it’s essential that reminders are sent out to all social sector organisations and public authorities, including mutual aid groups and charities, inviting them to play a role in creating and sharing responsible vaccination messages
This is a reminder that there is a clear role for community media groups and organisations to partner with their local public authorities and health services to ensure that members of the communications teams understand, and can demonstrate, what ‘culturally competent and tailored communications’ means in practice.
It’s essential that while we have time, as the vaccination rollout is being prepared, that all forms of community-focussed communications, including newspapers, video channels, radio, social forums, will play their part in ensuring that no members of our communities will be left behind, overlooked or dismissed if they have concerns about the vaccine.
I’m sure that there are many examples of community media across the country that demonstrate the effectiveness of community-focussed communications, and I’m sure that there is much that we can learn from one another about how they have made a difference.
We have a short window of opportunity to learn those lessons and put them into practice to ensure that all our fellow citizens are included in the vaccination communications.