Bedfordshire health bosses change tactics to encourage vaccinations in younger people

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Anyone over the age of 18 can now get their first jab

A different strategy is being used by health managers to persuade young people across Bedfordshire to get vaccinated against Covid-19, a meeting heard.

Currently only one in three in the 18 to 29 age group has had the jab, BLMK Clinical Commissioning Group’s governing body was told.

Social media channels, the influence of peer pressure and even a theatre production are among the methods being employed in the county to attract a greater vaccine response among young people.

“We’ve seen a lower uptake in our younger age groups,” warned BLMK CCG director of performance and governance Geraint Davies.

“We’re seeing roughly 30 per cent of the capacity we put out each day being accessed by those age groups, which is a challenge to us.

“We did ask Healthwatch how can we engage with the younger elements of their team to understand what that group needs us to do to increase the percentage.

“We’re also working directly with each of the local authority directors of public health about how we use information from a public health perspective to understand how we change the model of delivery.

“So are the big vaccination centres we set up initially right for this age group?” he asked. “Or do they want to access services differently?”

“Do they want more walk-ins than bookable? How do we look at where we put pop-ups or outreach services into the community to increase the uptake?

“What we’ve agreed to do is have a different strategy for the vaccination programme, which is to increase the uptake in those age groups.

“But every vaccination counts to ensure we achieve that aim. It will be a hard slog moving forward from our perspective.

“So how do we ensure that we’re eating into that age group each week to go from the 30 per cent that is coming forward to a higher uptake in that group?”

Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire chief executive officer Diana Blackmun told the meeting: “I did speak to our young Healthwatch team about your question.

“One of them has volunteered to do a quick snapshot survey to find out what their thoughts are about the vaccine uptake.”

Chief executive Luton Healthwatch Lucy Nicholson said: “We’re working with public health Luton to reach out to some of those groups.

“We’re looking at putting on a theatre production, but we’re leaving it to young people to create and be innovative.”

Healthwatch Milton Keynes chief executive officer Maxine Taffetini added: “We’ve a young people’s Instagram page, which has quite a good following, and quite strong Facebook presence at the moment.

“We can look at what we can do about seeking some information out through there.”

Mr Davies explained: “The key challenge we’ve got over the Covid situation while we’ve seen a slight reduction in overall case rates across our system, the start of green shoots potentially, we’re still seeing activity going into the hospitals.

“And we’re still seeing pressure on the system from the wider non-Covid activity across what we can deliver on.

“We’re currently working up the initial planning for phase three, which is the booster campaign from September.

“We’re still waiting for some key principles to be signed off whether it’s single dose or double dosage.

“We’ve submitted an initial plan to the region and had pretty positive feedback on that.

“I’ll take that via performance and quality sub-committee to ensure the wider governing body has sight of what we’re doing and we can bring updates moving forward.”

by Euan Duncan
Local Democracy Reporter

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