Covid vaccine events at West Ham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs ‘had limited impact on hard-to-reach communities’

·2-min read
People queue to receive a coronavirus vaccination at Twickenham (PA Wire)
People queue to receive a coronavirus vaccination at Twickenham (PA Wire)

Mass vaccination events at sports stadiums such as Twickenham were of limited value in attracting non-white Londoners most reluctant to be jabbed, a review has found.

It said there was a “risk” that such high-profile initiatives — which were also hosted by Arsenal, Chelsea, West Ham and Spurs — could “inadvertently exacerbate existing disparities in uptake” between communities.

The event at Twickenham jabbed more than 10,000 people in a day. Almost half were white British, many were aged 18 to 29 but there were few from black and Asian communities in north-west London where take-up was weakest.

One council worker told the researchers: “Twickenham worked better at attracting people from affluent white communities, not the population that was being targeted with the surge event.”

Another said: “The location appealed much more to white middle class populations than it did to those communities we were trying to reach in Hounslow.”

However, subsequent events at Arsenal’s Emirates stadium and West Ham’s London stadium were better at attracting older adults who had delayed receiving a first jab, and more ethnically diverse Londoners.

The report, by UCL Partners and with input from councils and health officials, is the first to assess the effectiveness of the vaccine roll-out across London. It aims to learn lessons and establish which initiatives were most effective at encouraging take-up, particularly among “hard to reach” communities.

More than 5.3 million Londoners are double jabbed but a million adult Londoners remain completely unvaccinated.

The report said the “hyper local” approach, using pharmacies and places of worship, tended to be most effective at reaching those who had been “hesitant”. It said that co-locating vaccine services at schools, food banks and places of worship could increase access.

Use of ExCeL conference centre in Docklands — one of London’s first mass vaccination sites — was criticised for its poor transport links, meaning it attracted fewer people.

It said there were early issues with a complicated booking system and said there was potential to combine surge testing and mass vaccination events.

The researchers revealed that concerns about the impact of vaccines on fertility was a familiar issue, prompting efforts to reassure women that there is no evidence the jab reduces the chance of becoming pregnant. One council official said: “When we talked about the fertility concerns, we just assumed the hesitancy was from the woman. It wasn’t. When we talked to them, they said, ‘Our fathers are frightened no one will marry us if we take the vaccine’.”

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