Irish In Britain in vaccination drive


THE vaccination drive to ensure booster jabs are taken up has been extended to the Irish community through an effort by Irish In Britain.

The Vaccine Le Chéile campaign has been launched following research from Oxford which has shown a lower rate of vaccination among Irish people living in Britain, and which adds to Scottish research earlier in the pandemic which showed a disproportionate effect of the virus on the Irish community.

The OpenSAFELY research found that compared with the majority of the population, Irish people living in Britain had lower rates of vaccination. In response to the this Irish In Britain launched their drive to ‘promote both the initial two Covid-19 vaccines as well as the booster shot to support the protection of Irish people and their networks in Britain.’
It focuses on the community organisations that underpin Irish culture and welfare in Britain and offers support to these groups and services in expanding the reach of the vaccine programme amongst the Irish community.

Although the campaign helps meet the need in the Irish community in increasing participation to the vaccination and booster programmes, the research also found positive news for the older Irish community killing in Britain, which suggested that uptake so far has seen a large majority of the over-80s receive the vaccine.

In the early stages of the vaccination drive, the Irish community was to the fore, with Margaret Keenan, originally of Enniskillen but living now in Coventry, making headlines as the first person in the UK to receive the jab.

Campaign aims
Launching the campaign, Irish In Britain explained what it hopes to achieve.

“The primary goal of ‘Vaccine Le Chéile’ is to provide Irish people living in Britain, particularly those who have yet to receive any doses of the vaccination, with evidence-based information to address misconceptions and questions,” the group said. “We want to enable informed positive decisions for self-care and care for others in their communities. The campaign will promote both the initial two Covid-19 vaccines as well as the booster shot to support the protection of Irish people and their networks in Britain.

“OpenSAFELY data has highlighted lower vaccine uptake across all ages in the Irish community compared with the British population. As part of Irish in Britain’s commitment to community health the Vaccine Le Chéile/Together campaign is targeted and adaptable as a community resource to help raise the level of vaccine take up across England, Scotland and Wales.

“There is also positive news from the research findings. A huge majority, nearly 90 per cent, of Irish people aged over 80 living in England have received their booster vaccination to date.

“The campaign will be launched across social media and within our member organisations, supported with resource packs and materials to make this a community-led health initiative.

“Vaccine Le Chéile will enable all those wishing to participate in many ways, including through an online workshop to brief membership organisations and stakeholders, access to Covid-19 vaccine support information and frequently asked questions.”

Community support
Throughout the pandemic the Irish community has been praised for its action in supporting vulnerable members of the community with a variety of campaigns to meet the needs which arose during the periods of restrictions and lockdowns.

Brian Dalton, CEO of Irish in Britain, referred to this successful community endeavour when he said: “The community alliance we represent has proven itself a powerful force to keep each other healthy and connected. The last 18 months has illustrated the power of community activism.

“We all now have a chance to play our part in positive action with this campaign, which was endorsed by our membership at our AGM in November.”

As part of the campaign, Irish In Britain also hosted a free online workshop enabling Irish groups in Britain to hear from a panel of professionals and experts giving their insight into the vaccine process and how to engage with those who still have to take up the vaccine and booster offers.

“The hour-long workshop will have a number of exciting panellists including Brian McKenna, (Research Pharmacist with OpenSAFELY, The DataLab, University of Oxford), Noelette Hanley (Chief Executive Officer, Luton Irish Forum) and Amy Bird (BAME Covid-19 and Health Community Support Worker at Irish Community Care),” Irish In Britain said ahead of the workshop. “The event includes a number of topics that will help to empower attendees to support their community members who have been unable or hesitant to receive their Covid vaccination to date [and] will start with an introduction to the Vaccine Le Chéile campaign and a run through of the resources by the campaign lead, Ellen Gavin.

“Brian McKenna, Research pharmacist with OpenSAFELY will discuss the findings regarding the Covid vaccinations and discuss factors that may contribute to the statistics regarding the vaccine uptake of the Irish population in Britain.

“Noelette Hanley, CEO at Luton Irish Forum will discuss their organisations experience throughout Covid-19 with a particular focus on supporting their service users to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Furthermore, Noelette will speak about her own experiences of barriers and vaccine myths that have faced her service users during the vaccination process.

“Amy Bird, BAME Covid-19 and Health Community Support Worker at Irish Community Care will discuss her work and experience as a support worker throughout the pandemic and will outline ways to support and empower the community to receive the vaccination.”

The use of vaccines to combat Covid-19 can be a vital tool in protecting the Irish community from the virus, as well as supporting the rest of society in living with Covid-19 and moving away from restrictions, and the importance of offering that protection was highlighted earlier in the pandemic as statistics emerged in Scotland which showed that the Irish community here was disproportionately affect by Covid-19.

Speaking at the time the figures emerged, Call It Out: the campaign against anti-Catholic bigotry and anti-Irish racism explained the importance of offering protection and support for the Irish community.

“Over the past two months, we have been responding to the report from the National Records of Scotland on Covid-19 deaths and ethnicity, which revealed that the Irish community has suffered the highest number of deaths of any minority ethnic group—and highest death rate as a percentage of our Census 2011 population size,” Call It Out told The Irish Voice.

If you would like more information, or would like to get involved in the campaign please contact: