Government announces £23m to help councils promote COVID-19 vaccine

The Government is spending millions on recruiting local ‘Community Champions’ to promote the coronavirus vaccine, amid concerns that a significant number of people are sceptical of its benefits.

False information about vaccines costs lives, communities secretary Robert Jenrick said this week (pic credit: Getty)
False information about vaccines costs lives, communities secretary Robert Jenrick said this week (pic credit: Getty)

More than £23m has been allocated to 60 councils and voluntary groups across England, housing, communities and local government secretary Robert Jenrick MP announced on Monday.

The new funding is to boost vaccine take-up and “expand COVID communications with at-risk groups".

A network of Community Champions is being set up to share vaccine advice and information. The funding will also “support extra school programmes, helplines and phone calls to those in at-risk groups”.

The funding is targeted at areas with plans to reach groups such as older people, disabled people, and people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

It will support councils to “tackle misinformation” and encourage take-up as the vaccination programme expands across the country.

The move has been welcomed by Alix Macfarlane, chair of LGcomms, who said: “Councils and partners are expanding existing networks and working in new ways to reach as many people as possible with life-saving information.”

She added: “We will continue to do all we can to communicate accurate and reassuring messaging while countering disinformation and false rumours that put residents at risk.”

Now read: A matter of life or death: The unique comms challenge of the vaccine rollout

Jenrick commented: “It is vital that everyone has access to accurate and up-to-date information about COVID-19. False information about COVID-19 vaccines could cost lives.”

He claimed that the new funding “will help councils and community groups expand some of the excellent work already underway and reach out to their communities to ensure they have the information they need and get their questions answered. Ultimately this funding will help save lives.”

A variety of groups will be supported, including the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, people with learning disabilities, and faith groups. Champions will be drawn from these groups to share accurate health information with their neighbours, networks, and wider community.

Two charities – Strengthening Faith Institutions and Near Neighbours – will support councils in working with grass-roots organisations and community leaders, to ensure that communities understand how the pandemic is being tackled and have confidence in vaccination.

Vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “We want [members of] all communities to take up the offer of a free vaccine and I have been working closely with faith and community leaders to ensure those who may be at higher risk of harm from this virus know how they can benefit from a vaccine.”

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