12 February 2021
What is Talking Point?
Cambridge News asks a representative of each local political party to answer a question on a local issue in just 300 words. The answers are then published in the physical copy of the Cambridge News every week. Here, we share our response to the question.
Today's Question: Should council staff and/or ‘community champions’ go door-to-door to encourage ‘hard to reach groups’ and ‘sceptics’ to accept vaccination offers?
The NHS-led COVID vaccination programme should meet the target of offering vaccines to 15 million people by mid-February. That’s great news, but it is hugely concerning that a much lower proportion of eligible people from a BAME background have been vaccinated compared with their white counterparts.
Actions are clearly needed, but they must be the right ones. Firstly, there must be no element of coercion. History shows that enforced vaccination frightens and disempowers people, fuelling anti-vaccination campaigns. Secondly, there must be genuine engagement with the reasons for low uptake. According to SAGE, barriers include “perception of risk, low confidence in the vaccine, distrust, access barriers, inconvenience, socio-demographic context and lack of endorsement, lack of vaccine offer or lack of communication from trusted providers and community leaders.” It is an awful fact that people from BAME backgrounds face discrimination in healthcare – is it surprising that trust may be lower in certain communities?
With all this in mind, the Green Party feels that an official knock on the door isn’t the best way to engage with non-vaccinated households (quite apart from the risk of spreading the virus). Religious leaders and trusted community figures are in the right place to get information out to their local communities, and act as role models when they discuss their own experiences of being vaccinated. A supportive phone call would be a safe and non-intimidating alternative to a visit at the door. There are many practical and structural barriers to some receiving vaccination - in some cases, it might be as simple as making someone aware of the availability of free taxi rides or flexible appointment times.
The pandemic continues to highlight weaknesses and increase the inequalities in our society. It has also revealed our strengths as communities. We have a lot to learn from and build on as we move forwards.
Our response was written by Dr Hannah Charlotte Copley. Hannah is a local NHS medical doctor and Medical Research Council clinical research training fellow, as well as the Co-Convener of Cambridge Green Party.