Sector: Healthcare|PR and Media Relations

COVID-19: Is misinformation the more deadly virus?

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This year started off as a tale of two halves; while England continues to be firmly in the grip of Lockdown 3.0, positive updates about the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out have helped boost spirits across the nation.

We now know the UK government plans to offer a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to every adult by September, at a rate of 140 jabs per minute. But while we have among the highest vaccination rates per head of population in the world – and 80 per cent of Brits willing to take the vaccine, the second highest country behind Thailand – there are other important factors that could impact the success or otherwise of our COVID-19 recovery.

Misinformation among some communities around the safety and efficacy of vaccines – often a result of historical unethical practices and wider discrimination – puts vaccine take-up at risk. Recent research among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) suggests that almost three quarters (72%) of black people are unlikely to have the vaccine. Whether it’s believing that the vaccine contains pork or is non-halal, or that it causes infertility, there are many myths that will need to be debunked to reassure these communities and encourage greater take-up.

This isn’t just a COVID-19 issue – blood donation schemes have consistently faced shortages from BAME and mixed heritage communities, leading to an injection of Government funding to enable grassroots community engagement to encourage donations.

This hesitancy towards vaccines could have dire consequences for those communities already hit hard by the pandemic. With black people almost twice at risk of death from COVID-19 than white people, more must be done to protect all groups at risk.

Communications undoubtedly has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges. Working with influential voices or community or religious leaders who already have the ear of their communities is recognised as an effective way to build trust. This is especially important when ensuring strong take-up from frontline workers from BAME communities. Just as PPE was and remains vital to protect our healthcare workforce from contracting the virus, the vaccine provides a similarly vital tool in our armoury.

Translating public health materials into different languages is not enough on its own. Messaging needs to take into account cultural nuances, and communities need to be able to find it and have trust in it; whether that’s in their local newspaper, on the radio, through digital channels or at their local community or religious centre. BBC Asian Network has done this particularly well, with their COVID-19 advice videos presented by South Asian journalists and health professionals to help disseminate information achieving millions of views.

While the UK faces its own challenges, tackling misinformation and vaccine scepticism is a global responsibility in the fight against COVID-19. As an example, our client Speak Up Africa, a Senegal-based advocacy tank, is paving the way on the continent with their new initiative that aims to amplify credible African scientist voices in the media, provide factual commentary on public health issues, and champion African-led research and development.

As we look to the coming months, we must learn the lessons from the pandemic and use smart communications and engagement techniques to help tackle these inequalities. It’s a matter of life and death.

By Lauren Garnet, Account Director in Grayling’s UK Healthcare team

Grayling sets the wheels in motion for the Clancy Briggs Cycling Academy

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Three months on since the Clancy Briggs Cycling Academy held its last face-to-face class meant re-opening its doors on 29th March as part of the UK Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, was a big deal. So, we made a splash to announce its return.

From the series of national lockdowns and disruption to schools and their activity programmes, to the cancellation of grassroots sport, children seemingly have had less opportunities to keep active over the last year. In fact, more than two-thirds (78%) of UK parents believe their children have become less active during the pandemic, and to compound the issue, it’s been reported that up to 25% of grassroots sports clubs may not return after lockdown restrictions are eased.

Lockdown has forced a decline in the number of children participating in sport across the UK, impacting not just their physical fitness, but mental health as well. Therefore, it’s crucial for the wellbeing of our children to ensure a healthy return and prosperous future for grassroots sports post-Covid.

The Clancy Briggs Cycling Academy, which was co-founded by triple Olympic gold medallist Ed Clancy OBE and Graham Briggs, aims to ensure children have fun learning to ride whilst acquiring new skills and abilities. It hopes to move a generation of children, putting the bicycle back at the heart of childhood play, forming lifelong habits that deliver health and environmental benefits for years to come.

The highly-anticipated return of outdoor sports was a key milestone for the Academy and for grassroots sports as a whole. Despite the popularity of its new virtual offering introduced last year to support kids across the UK during lockdown, the Academy’s face-to-face sessions allow children to thrive in a more social and interactive environment with like-minded peers as well as provide more exposure to routine exercise – something which had been a concern shared by many over the past year.

Commenting on how the Academy’s first physical session went following the easing of lockdown restrictions, Ed Clancy OBE, said: “Our first session back was terrific. The kids loved it and you could see just how excited they were to be back in the great outdoors on a beautiful sunny British day. For a coach, it’s a reminder of why we do what we do – giving back to the next generation and watching them thrive in a fun, group environment.”

We supported the Academy as it set its wheels in motion with a healthy spread of national and regional coverage secured in Daily Mail, MailOnline, Yorkshire Post and Doncaster Free Press.

And the result?

  • 282K – online coverage views
  • 217 – social shares
  • 1m – print circulation

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