The NHS in Essex has teamed up with Ford and local community health leaders to roll out a vital initiative across Mid and South Essex, delivering COVID-19 vaccines to communities who are vulnerable to COVID-19 and those who might face barriers to accessing traditional healthcare services.
Despite the UK’s successful vaccine rollout, COVID-19 vaccine uptake is lower among some communities facing access challenges. Such communities include those experiencing homelessness, ethnically diverse communities, travelling communities and unregistered patients.
To help address this, a specially converted Ford Transit van will begin to travel across Essex from next month, as GP practices work together with local community leaders to safely deliver and administer vaccines in areas of low uptake.
The Ford Transit will be a hub for dedicated vaccine clinics in the grounds of churches, mosques and other community venues. The NHS and partners across the Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership will liaise with community leaders and groups to fill pre-booked appointments to rally and vaccinate as many people from the local communities as possible.
Take-up of the vaccine has been exceptionally strong; 19 out of 20 people aged 50 and over have already chosen to take up the offer, which remains available. Additionally, the number of people from ethnic minority backgrounds coming forward has more than tripled over the last two months. The vaccine van initiative aims to help continue NHS efforts to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to as many people as possible.
The bespoke vehicle is based on a Ford Transit, the UK’s most popular commercial vehicle for 56 years, and has been converted by West Yorkshire-based specialist vehicle builders, Venari Group. The Transit’s specification includes medical grade refrigeration with WIFI monitoring capability, vaccine transport coolers, a collapsible chair for administering vaccines as well as an integrated tablet for accessing and updating health and vaccination records.
Mandy Dean, Director of Commercial Vehicles at Ford of Britain said: “Over the coming weeks, this Ford Transit will make some incredibly important journeys as a vaccination van. Working with the NHS and community leaders to deliver this brilliant scheme and bolster the exemplary vaccine rollout, has been a privilege. Full credit is due to our conversion partners at Venari Group, who continue to work with us to make thousands of life-saving vehicles for the emergency services every year.”
Dr Smitesh Patel, Clinical Director at Benfleet Primary Care Network, Essex commented: “Our goal of giving everyone an equal opportunity to receive this essential vaccine is now in closer reach, owing to the additional support from our valued network of community leaders, Ford and Venari Group.
“This added mobility has meant the gap will be bridged for so many facing a struggle to visit their local vaccination centre. With this support, we enter an important chapter of our vaccine rollout with a renewed sense of hope and optimism.”
Oliver North, CEO at Venari Group said; “The departure of the completed vaccination van from our factory on to British roads is something of a historic moment for us. We have worked closely with Ford and the NHS in Essex to create such an important vehicle, which is set to make a big impact in the community.”
The Ford and NHS Essex Vaccination Transit will take to the roads from early May. The programme will run as a pilot initially, with scope to increase the number of vehicles in the future and explore further outreach models in the future.