Over €3 million for research into increased vaccine coverage for minorities

The UMCG will lead an international study aimed at increasing vaccine coverage for minority groups, including those with a minority ethnic background, in Europe. €3.3 million has been made available for the project as part of the EU programme Horizon 2020.

Vaccine coverage for minority groups, including those with a minority ethnic background, in Europe is lower than that for the general population. In the Netherlands, for example, vaccine coverage against meningococcal infections for Turkish and Moroccan adolescents is 30% lower than that for other adolescents.

Worse access to care

Religious and cultural minorities and individuals with a minority ethnic background often have worse access to healthcare across Europe. This leads to lower vaccine coverage for these groups. Until now, research into increased vaccine coverage has mainly focused on changing the beliefs and attitudes of the target groups themselves. ‘Our research, however, focuses on changing the organisation of healthcare and on how we can increase vaccine coverage through focused interventions’, states UMCG researcher and project leader Daniëlle Jansen.  

Tailor-made interventions

The current coronavirus pandemic is once again showing that significant inequalities exist regarding access to healthcare. The need for responsive healthcare systems that adjust and respond to the needs of new patients and a changing society has never been so urgent, Jansen believes. ‘Our aim is to improve access to and the use of MMR and HPV vaccines among disadvantaged communities in Greece, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovakia. To this end, we must identify and remove obstacles in the healthcare system. We will do this through adjusting existing interventions and developing new ones that are tailor-made with and for disadvantaged communities. An example of such an intervention is extra training for professionals in approaching and convincing certain groups.’

Learning from best practices

The research project will be carried out over five years and will focus on five disadvantaged communities within four European countries. Jansen: ‘These are communities that are confronted with obstacles when accessing healthcare because current healthcare systems often do not sufficiently tie in with the groups’ specific needs and contexts. Barriers include poverty, language, limited healthcare skills and social exclusion.’ The groups to be studied are the migrant community in Greece (focus: MMR and HPV), Turkish and Moroccan girls in the Netherlands (focus: HPV), the Ukrainian minority in Poland (focus: MMR and HPV) and the Roma community in Slovakia (focus: HPV).

As part of the project, the researchers will look into best practices used amongst vulnerable communities that have high vaccine coverage despite being considered disadvantaged. These include the Somalian community in Finland, the Arabic community in Israel and the Bengali community in the United Kingdom. Insights into vaccine provision for these groups will be translated into interventions that tackle the obstacles in healthcare as faced by the five selected disadvantaged communities.