London Borough of Waltham Forest: Vaccine confidence programme

Waltham Forest Council has been working on a vaccine confidence programme, aimed at increasing take-up, particularly amongst its most vulnerable residents.

In recent months, Waltham Forest Council has been working on a vaccine confidence programme, aiming to increase take-up, particularly amongst its most vulnerable residents. Charlotte Goulding, senior comms officer, spoke about the council’s approach at our recent webinar.


Waltham Forest had used mass communications, targeted communications and engagement in all phases of its Covid response. When it came to instilling vaccine confidence, the council sought to:

  • Understand local attitudes to vaccination
  • Tailor the way it communicates and engages with specific audiences
  • Equip residents with what they need to make informed decisions
  • Increase vaccination update – particularly amongst some communities

Vaccine uptake is lowest amongst local Black African and Black Caribbean communities. The borough has a large British Pakistani and Pakistani community, who are also hesitant.  The council benefits from high levels of trust with residents, and were keen to capitalise on it to further protect its residents from Covid-19.


The council used existing consultation channels and created new means if engagement to support the vaccine communications and engagement plans. The council’s Resident Insight Survey informs and evaluates its response. Over 11,000 residents have completed four surveys which include questions regarding the vaccine.

The council created a Recovery Citizen’s Recovery Panel in September 2020, recruiting 75 participants that represented Waltham Forest in terms of ethnicity, gender, age, disability and socio-economic status. Using the panel and conducting focus groups with vaccine hesitant residents, the team have been able to better understand local concerns. They have also used public health data regarding vaccine take-up by GP surgery, ethnicity and cohort to inform and measure their efforts.


The vaccine hesitancy focus group identified three local audiences: “Reconsidering altruists” / “Receptive inquirers” / “Passionate opposers”. Each of these three audiences are now considered when developing communications content and engagement approach. Audiences are targeted according to content, channel, message and means.

Using the latest Public Health data, the council is now able to direct face to face engagement activity according to where vaccines are least accepted. Using its 15,000 strong Next Door resident communities, the council has been able to localise messaging to particular wards and neighbourhood. The team are also using the EAST (Easy, Attractive, Social, Timely) framework to inform content and approach.

Real residents have been used to tell their stories – often those who were hesitant at first but changed their minds after contracting the virus. The council pushed the story of the Chairman of Noor-Ul Islam Mosque, reaching about 25,000 South Asian residents.


Waltham Forest’s 500+ member strong Stay Safe and Virtual Stay Safe Champion networks have links into all parts of the community. They meet on a weekly basis through Zoom to hear the concerns of their communities to inform the council’s rolling programme of communications and engagement.

The council then uses Whatsapp broadcasts to share with them daily practical information, links, videos and content, tailored to their community preferences and needs. Knowing residents need information to make an informed opinion, the council has maintained a 31 per cent open rate on its twice weekly e-newsletter, sent to 190,000 email accounts. Responding to a need to engage with residents electronically during lockdown, over 70,000 people have watched four Facebook live COVID webinars answering over 100 questions from residents.


The aim of this work is to increase vaccine take up. The percentage of residents now (Feb 21) reporting they will take the vaccine has risen from 65 per cent in November to 87 per cent. With access to public health data detailing vaccine uptake by ethnicity, the council can track the outcome of its plans over time.

Using the update data available at GP surgery level, the council are starting micro-level engagement (street by street) to better engage and inform communities. 92 per cent of residents feel informed by Waltham Forest Council, increased from 87 per cent in May last year.

The council is now looking at the next phase of its programme. They are holding regular youth ambassador meetings to anticipate the rollout of the vaccine to the youngest cohort. They are also looking at how best to engage with Gypsy and Traveller communities.