Leeds: Providing a women-only COVID-19 vaccine offer

A women-only vaccination clinic was set up in a local area in Leeds experiencing lower vaccine uptake rates in order to provide a safe space for women to access the vaccine.

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Partners from across Leeds City Council, the NHS and the third sector worked collaboratively to improve access and uptake to the COVID-19 vaccination for women.

A women-only vaccination clinic was set up in a local area currently experiencing lower uptake rates. The focus was on harnessing community engagement and creating a safe, private space for women to access the vaccine. The clinic proved to be a success and led to others being run.

Range of factors behind low uptake

By spring, data in Leeds indicated that that women from culturally diverse groups were less likely to come forward for vaccination. Uptake was 24 per cent lower among ethnic minority women than it was among their white peers in priority groups two to nine at the end of March.

Local insight and feedback collated by the council’s public health team showed there was a range of factors behind this. These included location with transport being the largest barrier, being reliant on online and phone appointment systems as some people did not have a good level of digital literacy or English language skills and a lack of cultural sensitivity. For example, there were reports of some women ripping their clothing on their arm to get vaccinated due to the lack of private space.

The council responded by setting up a partnership with third sector group Women’s Lives Leeds and the local NHS to run a women-only clinic, which was staffed by female vaccinators, security and volunteers.

There was also space for children to be brought along and enclosed pods for privacy and translators were also on hand. Other services were available too, including domestic violence support, debt advice and social prescribers.

Harnessing community engagement with trusted partners

The first week-long, drop-in clinic took place in a community venue in a convenient location in the heart of Chapeltown, a culturally-diverse area in the north of the city.

The communications plan had a two-strand approach. A corporate flyer was developed by the NHS Leeds, along with social media graphics and a press release. A community flyer was also developed by Women’s Lives Leeds in response to local insight that suggested the target audience may be less receptive to a corporate message. The flyers were shared widely amongst partners including the third sector, faith sector, sent out in food bank parcels and via multilingual volunteers in the local area during the week of the clinic.

Originally it was going to be held in April, but the date was changed because that clashed with Ramadan so it was moved to the end of May. The approach worked well. A total of 116 women were vaccinated. The demographic data indicated that the women who attended lived locally to the clinic, were from a range of backgrounds reflecting the diverse make-up of the area and had attended for their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Jeanette Morris-Boam, Project Manager at Women’s Live Leeds, said the organisation was “proud” to be part of the initiative. “It was informed and shaped by the views of women and girls in Leeds. As an alliance, this meets with our vision of all women and girls being empowered to lead safer and healthier lives with their voices directly influencing service design.”

How approach has expanded

The success of the clinic prompted another one to be hosted at the same venue in August to provide second doses as well as more first doses. The approach was also expanded elsewhere in the city with a community centre setting up a women-only clinic in the south of Leeds.

These clinics have been followed up by women-friendly pop-up clinics at a food bank and baby group. Feedback from the clinics to date has been extremely positive. One woman said: “I found out about the clinic from my child’s school. I think it is a great idea to have it somewhere local that people trust.” Another added: “People have a chance to ask questions and speak their own language.”

Director of Public Health Victoria Eaton said she was delighted with what had been achieved. “This is a fantastic example of the Leeds approach to reducing vaccine inequalities, which is a key priority for the city. It highlights the value of partnership working across the system and responding to the needs of local communities to support access and uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Based on learning from the clinics so far, the council is now drawing up a set of principles on how to make vaccination clinics generally more women-friendly to share with partners across the city.

Sam Prince, Executive Director of Operations for the Leeds COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, said: “We continue to work with our partners in the city to look at ways to encourage as many people as possible to have the vaccine and remove any barriers that may prevent people from getting their jab.”

And Councillor Salma Arif, Executive Member for Public Health and Active Lifestyles at Leeds City Council, added: “I’m proud to be part of a city that is always looking for innovative new ways to increase uptake of the vaccine. I’m delighted with the collaboration between the NHS, women’s organisations and the council to make this happen.”

Contact details

Leeds City Council Health Protection Team

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