World Immunization Week 2022

“In pursuit of a long life well lived”

The word ‘vaccine’ has probably been uttered more in the past two years than it has been ever before. But vaccines have been part of British life for over 200 years, long before Covid-19 was on the radar. From smallpox to diphtheria to coronavirus, our nation has produced vaccines for some of the most dangerous diseases faced by humanity.

Vaccines protect us from serious diseases that have serious consequences, like illness, disability or even death. In our modern, interconnected world, diseases can easily cross national and international borders, spreading diseases to unvaccinated people.

During the pandemic, thousands of Norfolk people mobilised to assist with the rollout of the vaccine in 2021. Since then, 87% of people aged over 12 in our county have received their first dose. This herculean effort shows just how much Norfolk people are willing to look after each other.

In celebration of World Immunization Week 2022, we are taking a look at just one of the vaccine hesitancy projects we funded.

A child's colouring-in page thanking the NHS

Civic Duty

Taking a vaccine not only protects you, but the people around you, too. Not everyone can be vaccinated, such as babies who are too young, or people with compromised immune systems. They depend on those around them being vaccinated.

During the pandemic, many people were suspicious of the rapidly-developed Covid-19 vaccines that appeared within a year of the disease first emerging. These vaccines have been proven safe and effective by numerous national and international regulatory bodies, yet some still doubt their safety and efficacy. These doubts were more pronounced during the first year vaccinations were made available, especially from hardly-reached communities. For people living with English as a Second Language (ESOL), the rapidly-changing legal and medical landscape made accessing services and up-to-date information especially challenging. Fortunately, our Norfolk communities pulled together to help these people form hardly-reached communities, and we were there to support them.

Case Study: Hanseatic Union

Hanseatic Union are a King’s Lynn-based organisation working with migrant communities facing language barriers that prevent their full participation in society. They deliver ESOL classes as well as wrap around support to understand and access essential services and opportunities in the UK.

They found that many of their members were worried about the safety of the vaccine. There were also concerns around accessing health services with a low level of English, with members expressing frustration with the vaccination booking form, and around tricky and technical medical vocabulary that was being used.

Thanks to a grant from the Norfolk Community Foundation’s Covid-19 Vaccine Inequalities Fund, Hanseatic Union were able to deliver 6 teaching sessions regarding health, vaccines and Covid-19. There were 40 students of various nationalities. Through discussions with their members, Hanseatic Union were given opportunities to listen to ‘anti-vaxxer’ concerns and challenge them with credible, reliable information supporting the vaccine. They used their Facebook to keep their members updated with the latest information – allowing opportunities for questions or translations where requested. They helped with 8 applications for the vaccine, and attended the vaccination centre with 3 of their members.

“One client was a definite anti-vaxxer throughout the whole pandemic: not vocal in passing on their theories, but adamant they would not have a vaccine. However in December 2021 they had their first vaccine, and asked for support to book their second dose.”

– Hanseatic Union

An illustration of a doctor speaking to a patient who doesn't understand
Translation services are sometimes neecssary even those with good English, as medical jargon can be confusing
Illustration: a man holds an anti-vaccination banner. Later, the same man holds proof he has been vaccinated.
Hanseatic Union were able to help clients to understand the benefits of vaccination and to convince them to get the vaccine

The Covid-19 Vaccine Inequalities Fund was created by NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group through their Health Equality Partnership project. The aim of the fund was to provide grants to the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector (VCSE) to enable them to support the NHS in taking steps to overcome vaccine inequalities in the Norfolk and Waveney population, particularly in underserved communities and other areas where a priority need was identified.

It was recognised that community organisations are a trusted voice for many people, and can play an important role in providing information and support to those who may face concerns or practical barriers to taking up the COVID-19 vaccine.

Published: 24th April 2022