#COVIDSmart campaign to boost Sheffield virus fight
A team of community champions are pushing back against Covid misinformation in Sheffield, hoping to increase the vaccination rates in the community.
While some parts of Sheffield have seen a large uptake in vaccinations, rates are significantly lower in other areas.
SOAR, which is co-ordinating the Sheffield Community Champions Project funded by Sheffield City Council to help change the negative narrative around vaccinations, is particularly hoping to spread trusted information on the health benefits to groups where uptake is lower. This includes Black, Asian, Ethnic minorities and Refugee communities, under 40s, and people in underserved areas.
With more than two thirds of the 80 community champion posts filled, 8 community organisations – ACT, Burngreave Library, Darnall Wellbeing, FEFA, Firvale Community Hub, Longley 4G, SACMHA and Sharrow Community Forum – are working together to help equip their communities with the correct public health messages. These volunteers will use everyday conversations and interactions to share health messages in a gentle, non-combative way, hoping to counteract the ‘fake news’ narrative often shared on social media, or within communities. It is hoped that this softly-softly approach, with less emphasis on officialdom, will reach parts of the community currently not engaging with the UK-wide messaging.
Hanna Ramsden, project co-ordinator said: “We are hoping that the project will result in communities making informed health choices, to reduce infections and deaths from covid-19 and increase vaccine uptake.
It is hoped this less formal approach will influence people to share their thoughts and concerns of the vaccine and other public health topics.
One community member from Firvale Community Hub said: “I didn’t know I had a community champion Living next door. It’s an amazing project and I trust this person as I have known them years. They told me about the vaccine and encouraged that I take up the appointment for myself, my family, and my community. When people have seen me and asked me, knowing that I am not confident in having any vaccination, it has encouraged others to do so.”
Community volunteers may chat to people in the library, at the foodbank, or even among their friends and peers, helping to counterbalance the mis-information, to enable people to make informed choices.
One recent example was 64 years old Abu Mohamed Abubaker Al Kahali. Abu Mohamed was refusing to take the vaccine which was offered to him by the NHS. He was afraid of the false advertisements he had been seeing on the media. However, a member of the team at ACT managed to sit with him individually and show him the correct information as well as the correct facts with evidence and videos. He went ahead and had his first vaccine dose.
Everyone will have access to the #COVIDSmart Content, – available here – and is free to browse and download.
Hanna added: “We are hoping people will spread the word and be #COVIDSmart online and in their communities, to help beat this virus.”
You can find out more at Soar Community.