New film encourages Gypsy, Roma, Traveller and Showmen communities to ‘Give COVID the Jab’

Partners in Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care System have been tackling health inequalities by encouraging members of the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller (GRT) and Showmen communities to ‘Give COVID the Jab’. 

In a new NHS video​, produced in partnership with First Community Health and Care – an employee-owned social enterprise, providing community healthcare services to people living in east Surrey and parts of West Sussex – they aim to educate, inform and answer common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine to boost vaccine confidence within Traveller communities.

The film follows renowned Romany journalist Jake Bowers as he investigates what he and others in the nomadic communities can personally do to help society move on from the pandemic.

Filmed at the boxing club of iconic British boxer Les Stevens – who sadly became one of the first Romany men to die from COVID-19 in the first wave – Jake interviews a Catholic priest that works closely with Irish Travellers, seeking religious views about having the COVID-19 vaccine.

He also meets Lisa Gavin, First Community’s Clinical Services Manager for GRT and Inclusion Health to discuss and clarify misinformation and dispel myths he has heard about the vaccine that the wider Traveller communities may believe to be true.

The powerful film, which is interspersed with clips of a bout in the ring between a young boxer and a personification of the COVID virus, also shows some Showmen and GRT members receiving their first dose of the vaccine.

“I am delighted we have been able to produce this striking video, combining the GRT communities’ tradition and love of boxing, to share vital information about the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Lisa, whose nurse led team works across Surrey as part of Children and Family Health Surrey’s (CFHS) two year outreach project aiming to reduce health inequalities faced by Travellers.

“Once we started the dialogue about the vaccine it became evident a lot of the Traveller communities harboured concerns and fears about getting vaccinated, despite their nomadic lifestyle potentially increasing their risk of coming into contact with and spreading COVID-19.

“We know there is often a low literacy rate among GRT communities, so it was imperative we addressed their questions and concerns in a way that was inclusive and accessible to all and could be easily shared to reach as many people as possible,” Lisa added.

Dr Claire Fuller, GP and Senior Responsible Officer for Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership, said: “We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated health inequalities for some of our most vulnerable communities; as a health and care system one of our top priorities now is to turn that around and make sure that people across Surrey have equal access to key health services such as this life-saving vaccine.

“I’m delighted we have been able to produce this film to support the work that Lisa and her team are doing to reach out to the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller and Showmen communities.”