Local knowledge and leadership could be key in efforts to improve COVID-19 vaccine take-up across different communities, new research has found.
Funded by the British Academy, the Social Science Research Council and the UK’s Science & Innovation Network in the USA, the research explores levels of vaccine engagement in four locations: Oldham and Tower Hamlets in the UK, and the cities of Boston and Hartford in the US.
The study found that in all four localities the authorities’ top-down approach to vaccine distribution and education has been ineffective and that applying a ‘community engagement approach’ instead –involving community groups and trusted leaders in vaccine distribution and education – can improve take-up of the jab.
Delivered by the UK’s Institute for Community Studies and the US’ Institute for Community research, ‘Understanding Vaccine Hesitancy Through Communities of Place’ sets out a number of recommendations for boosting vaccine up-take.
Community agencies and representatives should be supported to identify smaller populations of hesitant or unvaccinated people, and their sources of influence, according to the researchers.
Efforts should be made to identify, and administer the vaccine to, groups that are harder to reach.
Policy makers and service providers should understand and integrate recognition of historical trauma and discriminatory experiences into COVID vaccination messaging and strategies.
Professor Simon Goldhill FBA, foreign secretary & vice-president at the British Academy, said: ‘Whether it is cross-faith leaders coming together in Tower Hamlets to facilitate pop-up vaccination groups or GPs in Oldham joining forces with local councillors to help rollout vaccinations to the homeless, this report examines some of the innovative measures communities are taking to strengthen vaccine engagement.
‘The findings also highlight the importance of locally specific data, which can help make sense of the scale, demographic profile and geographical location of vulnerable populations and also anticipate hesitant groups as well as track uptakes.’