We created a vital safe space for people to voice views on divisive issue of Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy
VacciNation, a new Healthwatch England report on Covid-19 vaccine confidence for people from some minority ethnic backgrounds, provides critical lessons for current and future public health campaigns.
We supported Healthwatch England, alongside the NHS Health and Race Observatory, to understand the factors influencing the well-documented lower confidence in the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out programme among some ethnic minority people living in England - and learn how to address them, to help tackle health inequalities.
The research found that attitudes to the vaccine are incredibly personal. Healthwatch England have drawn out key themes to support improvement in the way the NHS and other public health professionals communicate with the public.
- Targeted campaigns and messages need to avoid making people feel blamed or singled out. People's views about the vaccine are personal to them.
- Give people agency to make their own decision about the vaccine by providing them with all the information.
- People are more likely to trust independent organisations and people, like doctors and scientists.
- Transparency and trust go hand in hand. It is essential to make all information about the vaccine public and accessible.
- Frontline healthcare workers, local doctors and everyday people sharing their experience and knowledge of the vaccine are seen as more reliable sources of information than certain institutions.
Building on Healthwatch’s existing insights from over 15,000 people about the vaccine roll-out, we used a creative online engagement methodology to recruit participants and undertake in-depth interviews, group discussions and activities with 95 people from African, Bangladeshi, Caribbean, and Pakistani backgrounds. Those who took part have primarily hesitant attitudes or lack confidence in the vaccine.
Crucially, the design of the engagement work created a safe, inclusive online space for participants to confidently share their thoughts and discuss a challenging issue that they said was not available to them in other online spaces or in their daily lives.
Participants used a personalised online profile to respond to questions, engage in facilitated discussions and share real media examples of information about the Covid-19 vaccine from sources they trusted.
Jessie Cunnett, Head of Health and Social Care at Traverse, said:
“With a subject matter as charged and divisive as Covid-19 vaccination uptake, one of the early findings from our research was how fundamental it is that participants can confidently share their views and feelings openly with one another, without fear of judgement.
“With this in mind, our team designed an exciting and creative online methodology, using a staged process over a five-week period, which gave our panel the time and opportunities they needed to build trust and nurture a safe and inclusive environment, while making sure everyone’s voice was heard.
“We’re proud to have been involved in this important and timely research and it was a privilege to work with the research participants, who showed huge generosity of spirit to give up their valuable time to share their experiences for the benefit of others.”
Jacob Lant, Head of Policy and Research for Healthwatch England, said:
“Tackling health inequalities requires us to build trust, and that’s what this piece of research was all about. We wanted to create a safe space for people to come and discuss their views about the vaccine without prejudice. It was not about trying to convince people to take the vaccine, but about understanding their questions and using that insight to help Government and the NHS adjust the roll-out so people feel confident in making the decision that is right for them.
“This project combined Healthwatch’s existing insights from over 15,000 people about the vaccine roll-out and our ability to reach deep into communities with the creative methodology and research rigour of Traverse to create a powerful combination.
“The work doesn’t stop here. Our new five-year strategy at Healthwatch is all about tackling health inequalities, and so the learning this work has provided will go far beyond the vaccine programme. It will help us embed engagement at the heart the health and care system’s thinking when it plans future public health campaigns.”
Read the NHS Race and Health Observatory response to the findings of the VacciNation report.
Read our blog for the Social Research Association about our innovative research methodology.