“The work carried out by our team has proven to be essential in increasing vaccination coverage”

There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has challenged and tested all aspects of healthcare delivery.

However, who could have predicted that this would be a pandemic that would strike at the heart of the equality agenda and force health officials to examine the relationship between race-based inequalities and outcomes for health.

As a modern black Jamaican-born matron in acute confidence throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, I have witnessed the disproportionate level of risk of exposure to Covid-19 for ethnic minority workers, in especially those in the lower pay brackets.

Administrative facilitators and many clinical and non-clinical senior managers worked remotely from the safety of their own homes or in socially distant spaces. Nurses, doctors, allied health professionals and clinical support staff who had nowhere to hide rose up and faced the danger.

During the pandemic, space and time made no sense. Bright and dark winter evenings were all the same. From my office, located in one of the east wing service corridors, I watched with concern as workers pushed carts, providing resources and disposing of waste, thus maintaining essential services to keep the facility running. hospital.

They passed in silence, without words, without voices, their noisy and depressing silence. I sensed an invisibility, others invisible – cleaners, hostesses, porters, health support workers, many of whom were from minority groups. I wondered what their experiences and perspectives were regarding the pandemic. Were they safe and sound? Were they well informed?

I would perform wellness checks myself during my day, gaining insights from ethnic minority staff in lower salary brackets, gaining an understanding of their lived experience during a pandemic, creating safe environments to discuss fears and concerns. Relationships of trust have developed.

As employees of the trust that delivered the first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, our staff were well positioned to receive the vaccine early in the rollout. It was soon after he started that the time I had invested proved to be profoundly important.

“In many cases, confidence in vaccines was built through discussions where I was able to allay fears and seek answers to their questions”

Vaccine uptake data had begun to reveal that there were particular groups within the workforce who were not taking the vaccine, with the data suggesting that minority groups were among those whose absorption was the lowest.

Wanting to make sense of the data, I spoke to minority workers I had previously communicated with and a disturbing trend emerged: vaccine hesitancy. I explored the reasons why and common themes that emerged included the perceived lack of minority participants in clinical trials, adverse side effects, lack of information regarding ethnic-specific disorders, effects on fertility and pregnancy (all ethnicities) and the lack of positive messages delivered by high profile minority role models.

In many cases, confidence in vaccines was built through discussions where I was able to allay fears and seek answers to their questions. Realizing the magnitude and complexity of the concerns, it became clear that I needed a “bigger boat”.

Listening to the workforce allowed us to focus on key themes of hesitation and in April I relayed the anecdotal findings to our immunization manager, who had been tasked with increasing uptake of vaccines and joined forces, hoping to enlist others to join what was to be our vaccine hesitancy project.

Experts have lent their support and knowledge to the project, considering this work essential to the fight against Covid-19 and the success of the deployment of the vaccine. A hematologist, female matron, embryologists, sickle cell nurse specialist, practice development nurses and leaders representing the clinical support team participated in the project, bringing welcome energy and momentum to the cause. All of this was supported by the Trust’s communications team who structured our rapidly evolving strategy.

With this brilliant team of people, we developed a strategy and mobilized, making sure to apply a systematic approach to ensure we captured even the hardest to reach groups in the hospital.

We created posters describing why, as individuals, having the vaccine was important and meaningful to our lives. We ensured that posters contained a diverse representation based on age, gender, ethnicity and professional role, focusing on groups of frontline staff, ensuring that messages contained direct responses to concerns about vaccines voiced by staff early in our vaccine journey.

Members of our task force created a traveling information board and we began a roadshow, engaging staff face-to-face, answering questions and concerns on topics such as blood clot risks, vaccine risk for pregnancy and the rate at which the vaccine was developed.

“In May, the data indicated that as a result of this transformational work, we saw an increase in the first dose of vaccines of approximately 8.5%”

We worked methodically by visiting key areas of the hospital, coordinating with clinical and non-clinical leaders to take advantage of scheduled staff meetings for maximum exposure.

We visited break rooms, strategically placed vaccine posters created by staff for staff, distributed flyers while generating positive conversations about their content. We have proposed warning signs for clinical specialists to counter the huge amount of misinformation about vaccines being shared on social media.

In May, the data showed that as a result of this transformation work, we had seen an increase in the first dose of vaccines by approximately 8.5%. It is a testament to the exceptional energy and effort of a team that takes the time to care for individuals, listen to fears and concerns, and encourage vaccination. The relationship between successful management of Covid-19 and vaccine uptake is globally recognized. The work carried out by our team has proven to be essential in increasing adoption.

As a small team, we created an immunization success framework for staff members who needed more information to make their decision. By supporting the individual, we support families and communities. Good news has great value.

I am immensely proud of my contribution to the project, especially as it added to my current role. During this trip, I gained insight into the experiences of many staff members, especially members of minorities, and perceptions of their value as individuals; in turn, creating meaningful actions to address adoption challenges.

We know the Covid 19 pandemic has not yet subsided and work will continue to secure the gates. As we reflect on our own responses to vaccination, I would like to believe that no man, woman or other will be left behind and that all lives are considered equally important and that future vaccine booster programs will be inclusive and diverse strategies, as I can think of no other event in most of our lives where our livelihoods, our freedom, our freedom is in the hands of so many.

Lorna Jones is a modern matron at University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.

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