South Gloucestershire HandyVan, Library and One Stop Shop staff have received additional training as part of a pilot to equip more of our people with key information to pass on to residents in support of the Covid-19 vaccination programme.
The Make Every Contact Count (MECC) training doesn’t make these staff experts in public health, but enables them to strike up a brief conversation, when appropriate, with the public they work with, about the coronavirus vaccine and to signpost them to further information if people are hesitant or unsure about having it.
The training is part of our ongoing efforts to do all that we can as a local authority to encourage vaccine uptake among all those who are eligible – now everyone over the age of 18. It is based on some key principles, including that many people prefer a real conversation to simply finding information online. The training has already helped many positive conversations to take place, helping to allay concerns and counter some of the vaccine misinformation that is circulating.
Staff who have received the training wear an ‘ask me about Covid-19 vaccination’ badge to invite residents to initiate a discussion. They also carry vaccine information leaflets, in several languages, to give to customers who want to know more.
The training includes:
• Why and how the vaccines were able to be developed and tested for safe use so quickly
• The PHE estimate of the number of infections (7.2 million) and deaths (27,000) in England. that have already been prevented through the vaccine roll-out
• How the vaccine works in conjunction with regular Covid-19 testing, effective self-isolation and continuing to follow the guidance on Hands Face Space and Fresh Air to help stem the spread of coronavirus
• How the vaccine uptake has been lower among some groups, including those from minority ethnic backgrounds
Having the conversations is entirely voluntary, for staff and of course the public who they deal with, and the aim is not to convince people to take the vaccine, just to help direct people towards accurate information to help inform their own choices.
HandyVan worker, Martin said that he was speaking to one of our customers and while they were chatting the conversation, as so many do these days, turned to the impact of the pandemic. Martin was able to use his training to help direct the customer to information that answered some of their questions and said they were now felt more comfortable about having the vaccine.
Taking the vaccine when invited to do so, alongside regular testing to identify asymptomatic cases of the virus, as well as helping to ensure that anyone who receives a positive test result effectively self-isolates, are all key ways for us to stem the spread of Covid-19.
Continuing to be vigilant and following the rules around Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air, particularly as we are seeing a significant up-tick in cases locally, are essential if we are to continue to protect ourselves, our loved ones and the NHS from becoming overwhelmed so that we can return to normal life in the coming months.
Cabinet Member for Adults and Housing, Councillor Ben Stokes, said: “Our staff are the real face of the council and work to support hundreds of residents every day. They are trusted, honest sources of information and enjoy having positive conversations with the people they work with and for. By giving them this training, we can equip them to give important information about the vaccine to residents who may not get all their information online, and who like a chat with a friendly face.
“It is really pleasing to hear that they have already had so many good conversations with people and helped to give or direct them to the information they need, to answer the questions they have.
“Our front-line staff have provided a real lifeline to so many during the pandemic and in helping more residents to understand the benefits of the vaccine so that they can make their own informed choices is another wonderful way that they are making a positive difference to people across South Gloucestershire every day.”
For more information about the HandyVan service, please visit our website: The HandyVan Service | South Gloucestershire Council (southglos.gov.uk).