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Portsmouth City Council is looking for members of the community to become champions and support the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

The council particularly wants to engage people from diverse communities in the city, to ensure everyone is receiving trusted and up-to-date information about the vaccine.

Cllr Jason Fazackarley, Cabinet Member for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at Portsmouth City Council, said: “75.3% of adults in Portsmouth have had the first dose of the vaccination, and we know that lots of residents are hopeful that it will help to protect us from the virus. However, national data shows us that individuals from ethnically diverse communities are less likely to have been vaccinated so far. We know that often individuals listen to their friends, families and community members when making their decision about whether to take up the offer of vaccination and we are especially keen to recruit champions from diverse communities.”

The community champion role is voluntary and involves sharing information with people on social media, WhatsApp, in local magazines or newsletters and at community centres or on community noticeboards. You might also be asked to help produce videos for sharing online.

Alex Ruddock, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Portsmouth, has signed up to become a champion. She said: “I want to use the BLM Portsmouth Instagram page to inform the Black community about the vaccine and I know that through this programme, I’ll get timely and useful information from the council and NHS that I can then share. I’ve already been working with the council to produce some live Instagram videos with people talking about their experiences of the vaccine, so it seemed like a great way to formalise our partnership.”

Cllr Chris Attwell, Cabinet Member for Communities and Central Services, added:

“Hearing evidence and seeing stats from a trusted person in the community can be really helpful for someone in making a decision – and this applies beyond the COVID vaccine too. Initially the programme will focus on the vaccine roll-out but our ambition is to ensure all voices in the communities are heard, on a wide range of issues and subjects. We want to encourage champions to share information, but we also want to hear their concerns and feedback directly from the communities they serve. I’m delighted to be supporting the Community Champion programme and hope people across the city will get involved.”

If successful in their application, individuals will be asked to attend a training session on Zoom which provides more information about the role of the champion, the vaccine and what support will be available from the council. Champions will be offered a £20 shopping voucher as a thank you for their support following the training and tasks as agreed.

Anyone aged 18 years plus living or working in Portsmouth can apply to become a Community Champion. The council particularly welcomes applications from those from diverse backgrounds. Apply on the Portsmouth City Council website – www.portsmouth.gov.uk/champions.

Anyone who hasn’t yet had their first dose of the vaccine, or is now eligible for their second dose (8 weeks after the first) can get it at one of several walk-in centres across the region. No appointment needed. Find out more: https://hampshiresouthamptonandisleofwightccg.nhs.uk/your-health/latest-information-on-covid-19/covid-19-vaccination-programme/walk-in-clinics-near-you.