The success of the borough's vaccination programme is due to the efforts of many dedicated staff. One of the teams supporting the programme behind the scenes is the Tower Hamlets Advocacy and Interpreting Service.
Since December 202, the Advocacy and Interpreting team has been working alongside vaccinators and agencies in the Tower Hamlets COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, offering support to scores of people for whom English is a second language.
The team has been a familiar presence at the vaccination centres, located at settings across the borough, including The Art Pavilion, Mile End and Cable Street as well as pop up clinics at Granby Hall and the East London Mosque.
Almost on a daily basis, each of these centres required an interpreter and the team responded at often short notices due to the unpredictable timetable for vaccine deliveries.
Lawrence Muyimba, Service Lead describes how advocacy staff are responsive to the needs of local residents at the vaccination centres. "The team has to be very flexible to respond to individual's language support, and other needs. Some of the advocates and interpreters cover long clinics, that could run up to 12 hours a day including weekends. So far, my team has provided 727 hours of cover."
The most common languages required at the vaccination centres are Bengali /Sylheti, Urdu, Hindi, Gujarati, Somali, Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese.
While language support is a big component of their work, the team has been an excellent resource in educating those for whom English is not their first language on the benefits of the vaccine. They also participated in the general running of the clinics.
"This involved supporting arriving patients, marshalling, and guiding people to appropriate stations and seating areas, helping to maintain safety measures by cleaning chairs, pens, boards, filling out forms, translating the health questionnaire and reinforcing the medical advice."
"I saw members of my team helping elderly people who could not see properly or write easily. We also supported the clinicians to be able to answer cultural and religious questions from the public."
"I extend my sincere appreciation to all the colleagues who continue to show flexibility and commitment to the entire vaccination exercise, in particular, the following advocates and interpreters: Rekha Uddin, Rowshanara Choudhury, Piarun Nessa, Nazma Hussain, Syed Anisuzzaman, Shamsun Rahim, Younus Hassan, and Jenny Flore's Soledad.
The Tower Hamlets Advocacy and Interpreting Service (THAIS) is a free and confidential service for anyone requiring healthcare, who is registered with one of our 36 partner GP practices.
Learn more about the service here.