Students from Bradford involved in a covid-19 leadership programme who delivered a policy paper to the national vaccine lead, Nadhim Zahawi, on community response to Covid-19 last year, met with officials from Downing Street last week.
Twenty students, studying for degrees in health and social care, were selected to take part in a Covid-19 leadership programme in November 2020, coordinated by Neesie, an organisation that provides practical support for single mothers in the district.
The Covid Lead Leadership programme aimed at dispelling fake news by empowering the future workers of the NHS to deliver correct information surrounding Covid-19 to their community, online, and in-person, when permitted.
The students also created a policy paper providing solutions to tackling myths around coronavirus, especially in Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic communities.
The Covid-19 advocates spent an afternoon touring 10 Downing Street and presenting their paper to a special advisor to the prime minister, Daniel El-Gamry. They also met with Shipley MP, Phillip Davies (Cons).
Founder and director of Neesie, Noreen Khan, said: “We established the programme in November in 2020 when Covid-19 was rife, and we were just on the cusp of the vaccine breakthrough.
“We learned that myths around Covid-19, especially in the Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic communities were endemic, which led us to devise a leadership programme for twenty young, educated people from minority communities, predominantly studying health and social care degrees, who will become the next NHS workforce to dispel misinformation.”
The team at Neesie created a programme with a “four-prong” attack. The first point of action was to upskill the students in the knowledge of viruses and vaccines, especially with Covid-19 in mind. They engaged with epidemiologists, vaccine creators, and experts from around the world.
The Covid-19 advocates fed this information back to their local community and created a policy paper highlighting the way to solve Covid-19 misinformation and vaccine hesitancy in the community.
The advocates then delivered the paper to Nadhim Zahawi last year, who was the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Vaccines and Public Health, before being promoted to Education Secretary in Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle in September.
Ms Khan mentioned: “The policy paper was an innovative aspect of our programme that gained us immense accolade and a public platform. With a solution-focused mentality, we were able to go and present a policy paper to present to Nadhim Zahawi, who was in charge of vaccine deployment at the time, live via Zoom.”
She added: “The fourth element was the London leadership summit last week, where the advocates were invited to No 10 and had an extended session with a special advisor to the prime minister, Daniel El-Gamry.”
The advocates were effective in dispelling news in their community, and on average, increased vaccine uptake by members of Bradford’s inner-city community by eight people a day.