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Tackling Vaccine Hesitancy in Liverpool

The Liverpool Vaccine Equity Pilot Project has been shortlisted for an award as the Chamber’s Charity of the Year. Spearheaded by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), the fundamental objective of this endeavour was to innovate strategies addressing Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy among Liverpool residents.

Collaborative Approach to Tackle Vaccine Disparities

This initiative promoted collaboration among stakeholders with a shared goal of reducing vaccine disparities in Liverpool. Engaging local communities played a key role. Leveraging LSTM’s global health equity experience, Liverpool Public Health extended their successful work from Kenya. Focused on Covid-19 vaccination, the project used community-led methods to analyse vaccine hesitancy trends. It emphasised teamwork across disciplines to create data-driven strategies. Uniquely, the approach utilised existing networks and expanded outreach to underserved communities with low vaccine uptake.

Community-Led Approach to Overcoming Hesitancy

The Covid-19 pandemic accentuated disparities in Liverpool, highlighting the intricate link between poverty and health. Troubling data showed a clear connection: the most economically deprived areas had the lowest Covid-19 vaccination rates and highest 2021 hospital admissions.

Efforts by the NHS, Local Authorities, and the Voluntary and Community Sector aimed to boost vaccine uptake, yet a significant challenge remained: a 40% gap in uptake between the most and least deprived areas. Despite robust initiatives like the Covid-19 vaccination program, it was clear that accessibility-focused solutions (e.g., vaccine buses, taxis, community outreach) fell short.

Recognising national vaccine hesitancy, Liverpool stakeholders saw the need for community-led strategies tailored to the local context.

Community Innovation Teams: The Heart of the Approach

Central to this innovative approach is the establishment and evolution of Community Innovation Teams (CITs), composed of community advocates, volunteers, primary care providers, public health professionals, and other key stakeholders. These teams leverage local data to dismantle barriers to vaccination.

The inaugural phase of the program, spanning December 2021 to July 2022, culminated in a comprehensive report outlining its achievements. These included the formation of CITs, a survey elucidating the reasons behind vaccination decisions, and the development of impactful messaging and communication channels to boost Covid-19 vaccination rates. Tailored interventions targeted communities through diverse engagement events, outreach initiatives, a “I did it for…” photo exhibition, and a social media campaign featuring positive stories from vaccinated individuals in inner-city Liverpool. These community assets were also integrated into a broader NHS Northwest social media campaign.

Achievements and Impact

The collective efforts resulted in a notable 12% increase in vaccine uptake among unvaccinated white men under 50 in Vauxhall, Marybone, and Kensington. Similarly, unvaccinated women of reproductive age in The Dingle, Princes Park, The Elms, and Abercromby experienced an impressive 11% uptick in vaccine acceptance.

Phase Two: Expanding the Vision

Building on approval from the Liverpool City Council Cabinet in December 2022, the initiative moved into its second phase, now named The Liverpool Health Equity Project. This stage involves collaboration among entities like the LSTM-led Infection Innovation Control Consortium (iiCON), Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Central Liverpool Primary Care Network (CLPCN), and Capacity Development International.

The current focus centres on expanding the community-led approach to cover additional Liverpool neighbourhoods, with a strong emphasis on the most marginalised areas. In this ongoing phase, the community-led model is broadening to include three more primary care networks, introducing fresh community innovation teams. These teams, drawing from lessons learned in the initial phase, aim to address gaps in vaccine uptake, encompassing not only Covid-19 vaccinations but also flu vaccines, childhood immunisations, and broader health concerns like cancer screenings and mental health support.

Each newly established community innovation team prioritises health equity by tailoring its approach to the specific needs of its community.

A Collaborative Effort Towards Health Equity

The program leverages expertise from social science, health systems, primary health care, industry, and social marketing, culminating in a collaboration that supports leaders in public health and behaviour change within the Liverpool City Council. Preliminary research findings indicate that tailored local messaging plays a pivotal role in motivating communities to access health services, including vaccinations.

This project is up for an award at the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce’s Innovation Awards, sponsored by Block N Mesh. We would be delighted if you could vote for it here