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Devon’s Vaccine Ambassadors Launch New Films


New films featuring Devon’s Vaccine Ambassadors, are being launched today to offer encouragement and reassurance to people from communities across the county who are not yet fully vaccinated.

Feedback from community leaders in early 2020 suggested that trusted voices would be important in encouraging uptake of the vaccine among diverse communities.  As a result, NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning group developed a Vaccine Ambassador programme.

Devon has 20 Vaccine Ambassadors, recruited from across health and social care, local authorities and charities since March 2020. The ambassadors represent different communities, including some that have been more hesitant to have the vaccine. Their role is to listen to their communities, promote reliable information about the Covid-19 vaccination and help people to have confidence to have their vaccine. Between them, they have worked with hundreds of people across Devon from diverse communities.

Mohamed Muganzi, Manager of Piety Mosque in Plymouth, is featured in the films encouraging worshippers arriving for Friday prayers to have their vaccine. “It’s very important that they get vaccinated,” he said, “it’s protecting themselves and protecting us. If one person came in infected, we have over 1,000 others who could get infected.”

The World Health Organisation recently warned that, while the Omicron variant does appear to be less severe compared to Delta, it should not be categorised as “mild” and still causes some people to die or become seriously ill and need hospital care.

The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows shortly after getting a booster, you are 85% less likely to end up in hospital than if you are unvaccinated.

However having the Covid-19 vaccination reduces your chances of becoming seriously ill and clinics in Devon remain open to anyone who is eligible and has not yet had their first, second or booster dose.

In the new films, the Vaccine Ambassadors offer reassurance to people who are anxious about having the vaccine.  Aleksandra Burckett, known as Ola, is a project support worker for us here at Engaging Communities South West and says: “It’s ok to be stressed and it’s ok to be nervous because this is all new to us, but there is nothing to be worried about.” Her ambassador video can be seen here or below:

Ola also supports our independent healthcare champion project Healthwatch, and since 2020, she has been translating vital information about COVID-19 into Polish for the local community via all the Healthwatch websites in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay, along with various different Polish Facebook groups. This included working with the local Public Health Team in Torbay to translate important information about COVID symptoms, what to do when you get them, where to go, and the rules of self-isolation. This new marketing has been distributed to local Polish shops and schools for display.

Ola is a COVID ‘Champion’ for Torbay, an initiative run by Public Health where Champions receive an up-to-date local Coronavirus information and share this with as many people as possible, including local Healthwatch, friends, family, work colleges and of course the local Polish community.

She also recently featured in a Devon NHS staff briefing to discuss her role as vaccine ambassador and to share learning with the NHS of how the vaccine rollout is being perceived by members of the local Eastern European community.

Justine Smyth works with the deaf community in Devon and advises people who are deaf to write down their personal details and that they are deaf before going for their vaccination, “I know that the staff will be wearing masks so lip reading and communication might put you off, so write it all down on a bit of paper.”

Katherine Last, who works for Living Options Devon and is a Community Vaccination Champion for the autistic community, reassures people who haven’t yet had their first dose: “It doesn’t matter if you’ve not had any of your vaccines yet.  Don’t worry about being judged. They are simply there to help.”

NHS Devon’s Chief Nurse Darryn Allcorn said: “The Vaccine Ambassadors have played a crucial role in supporting people from different communities to have their vaccinations. We would urge anyone who hasn’t yet had them to come forward.  Please don’t underestimate the Omicron variant. It can still make you very poorly, especially if you are unvaccinated.”

In December, more than four million people in England tested positive for Covid and would have been unable to get their vaccine for at least 28 days, in line with Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) guidance, but will now be.

Details of walk-in clinics are regularly shared on NHS Devon CCG’s social media pages. You can find your nearest walk-in clinic on NHS England’s site finder here. Appointments can also be booked via the National Booking System

The films can be viewed and shared from YouTube or downloaded to share on other social media platforms.