How multilingual volunteers making phone calls became a Covid lifeline

More than 100 Manchester people who had previously not taken up their Covid vaccination, had the jab recently thanks to personal telephone calls and support from multilingual volunteers. 

The volunteers who speak, or could arrange translations in Urdu, Punjabi, Kurdish, Arabic and Bengali rang people who had been identified by GPs at Ladybarn Group Practice, Al-Shifa Medical Centre and David Medical centre – so that they could discuss any specific concerns. 

Thanks to that personal touch, 110 people had their vaccinations on Saturday (Feb 28) at a clinic based at Chancellors Hotel in Fallowfield, where more multilingual staff and translated materials were also available. 

Fiona Vincer, who is a Health Development Co-ordinator covering Chorlton Park, Didsbury and Burnage was part of the team that started the project. 

Fiona said: “From talking to the GPs we knew that many of the people who had not taken up the vaccine offer just needed more time to have a conversation – in the language of their choice – so that they could make a decision that they were comfortable with. 

“For a lot of people it’s also about the personal touch – not everyone responds well to messages on phones or emails and that’s why we decided to take this specific approach.” 

Dr Oliver Atkinson, Clinical Director, Didsbury, Chorlton Park and Burnage Primary Care Network, said: “The practices of our primary care network grouping are committed to addressing the inequalities we’ve witnessed throughout the pandemic, and the hesitancy within certain cohorts about the vaccination programme.

“By rapidly mobilising a multilingual team of volunteers, we were able to contact over one hundred people of Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds who had previously declined or not responded to previous attempts to book a vaccination.

“By engaging directly with them over the phone we were able to answer questions and debunk vaccination myths. We are aware of the ongoing inequalities and will continue to work alongside our community partners to maximise uptake and inclusivity of Covid vaccinations. “ 

Councillor Bev Craig, Executive Member for Adult Health and Wellbeing at Manchester City Council, said: “We are determined to do our utmost to reach everybody who is eligible for the vaccine in Manchester. We’ll listen to the people in our communities and work together to find ways to give everyone the time and detail they need to make really important decisions about their health.”