The fight against coronavirus is taking place on a hyperlocal level.
Last month, the LGA launched the latest episode in its ‘Forget what you think you know’ podcast series.
This episode focuses on the COVID-19 vaccination programme and how the fight against coronavirus is taking place on a hyperlocal level.
I had the pleasure of hosting the episode with speakers including Professor Jim McManus, Director of Public Health at Hertfordshire County Council; Dr Julie Yates, Consultant in Public Health – Screening and Immunisation Lead at Public Health England; and Eleanor Kelly, Chief Executive of Southwark Council and national adviser on vaccinations.
During the 45-minute session, we discuss how the vaccine rollout can be maintained at a local level if we are to live with COVID-19 in the future; the lessons learned from other vaccination programmes; the issues and role of councils supporting the NHS in the rollout and uptake of the vaccine among vulnerable and difficult-to-reach residents such as the homeless and rough sleepers; and the use of behavioural change techniques to encourage vaccine uptake.
There is no doubt the vaccination programme has been a tremendous success. According to Eleanor Kelly, that achievement doesn’t belong to the programme – “it belongs to the tens of thousands of frontline NHS and local government staff”.
It also belongs to the volunteers, transport and warehouse operatives, delivery drivers and many others who have all played the most amazing part to ensure that the most at-risk groups in particular have now been offered life-saving vaccinations.
Local government has really played a phenomenal role during the pandemic and throughout the vaccine rollout. Councils have had to learn new ways of working, how to work in collaboration with other organisations and change the way they do things.
As Prof McManus says: “Local government has brought a ‘team of teams’ approach. You’ve got public health, plus logistics, plus elected member leadership, plus social care plus, plus…I could go on all day.”
The podcast also explores some of the more contentious issues around vaccinations such as vaccine hesitancy and health inequalities, and how councils as local champions can come together to address them.
Dr Yates believes one way to encourage vaccine confidence is to listen to populations and not assume that “one approach will work for everyone”.
She says: “I’m different, and we don’t all have the same questions, we don’t all have the same concerns – but there are many factors that are underpinning my beliefs and my understanding and my confidence in the programme.”
We have already witnessed millions of first and second doses of the vaccine administered across the country and, as we begin our transition to a new normal, we have to remain positive and alert.
I know councils will continue to play their part and lead from the front to provide support where needed.
We’ve got a lot of previous experience and knowledge and understanding from other immunisation programmes, so we need to build on all of this knowledge and experience to make sure that we don’t forget what we already know.