Innovative approach to vaccine hesitancy sees over 1000 homeless people vaccinated in Devon

Case study summary

Integrated Care Scheme (ICS) for Devon has encouraged people from a range of communities who are vaccine hesitant to come forward and get their COVID jab and collaborative working, at the heart of the programme, is hailed as the reason for its success. NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, Devon County Council, local Primary Care Networks and community groups have shared understanding about local communities enabling messages to be tailored at community level and a diverse range of approaches harnessed to address multiple challenges facing the area.


Integrated Care System (ICS) for Devon.

What was the aim?

The aim of the programme was to increase the COVID-19 vaccine uptake amongst reticent groups including the homeless, undocumented migrants, people reticent for religious reasons, pregnant women and people with a learning disability, to engage with them and address the barriers to accessing the vaccine.

What was the solution?

The solution was brought about by collaborative working across the ICS to develop a shared understanding about local communities, really understanding people’s hesitancy and working with leaders in those communities to agree what messages and channels of communication would be most effective.

The programme included translated materials and films that can be shared on preferred social media channels, a film explaining the vaccination process presented by and for people with a learning disability, vaccinations in mental health clinics, virtual community meetings with faith groups, visits to authorised Gypsy, Roma and Traveller sites, a pop-up vaccine clinic in the local mosque and a vaccine bus targeting large blue-collar workplaces and isolated rural areas.

What were the challenges?

The challenges were the need to specifically address the individual needs and concerns of different communities, to reach out to and forge new links with them through people who had their trust and to combat the misinformation spread on social media and through word of mouth.  It was challenging to overcome the distrust and, in some cases, fear of authorities within some communities.

What were the results?

Targeting and tailoring messages has already seen 262 homeless people vaccinated at an event with additional health checks, veterinary care, clean clothes and food, 20 people registered with a GP and a further 675 vaccinated in homeless or temporary accommodation settings by Spring 2021.

21 previously hesitant people were vaccinated at a pop-up clinic at Exeter Mosque and Cultural Centre and 78 people booked into a vaccine clinic for undocumented migrants organised with the local Chinese community due to anxiety about deportation.

Social media messaging offering reassurance on fertility and pregnancy were targeted at hesitant health and care workers resulting in 112 clicks through to the National Booking Service from one social media post. These figures captured in Spring 2021 are now even higher.

What were the learning points?

Chief Executive of the ICS for Devon, Jane Milligan said, ‘The Covid-19 pandemic has both highlighted and worsened health inequalities but the diversity of targeted events and approaches we have used have reached many people who may otherwise have gone unvaccinated and there is a plan in place to use the experience to build a better, more inclusive local health service in Devon.

“Many of our Black and Minority Ethnic staff working across the Integrated Care System also came forward to act as vaccine ambassadors which made a huge difference and continuing to harness their knowledge is something else we will be taking forward as a learning point”.