Covid-19 Awareness campaign of the city of Bochum "Wattenscheid against Corona".

Immunization Task Force City of Bochum

WB Risk Prevention Systems supported Task Task Force of the city of Bochum to strengthen the Immunization coverage and preventive health care.

In the discussion about vaccination rates and obligations, municipalities and health authorities in particular are asking how best to protect the population from infection and motivate them to vaccinate. Before this question can even be answered, however, it is necessary to analyze the population of the unvaccinated in order to find out, among other things, why some people have not yet been vaccinated and how they can be reached. 

The inadequate availability of data is a particular challenge here, which the city of Bochum was also confronted with in the fall of 2021. Despite a high vaccination rate and efficient organization of the vaccination center, there was an increasing impression that a part of the population could not (yet) be reached via the classic channels of the vaccination campaign. However, there was no database available with which to identify the group more precisely. 

Out-of-town situation in Bochum

To address this lack of data, WB Risk Prevention Systems partnered with the city to implement a two-level survey: 

The focus was not on a standardized survey in order to be able to make representative statements, but on the desire to obtain concrete approaches as quickly as possible. With the help of the Gemba Walk method (Japanese for "place of action"), we went to the individual city districts to talk to the people there.

Both measures led to the realization that it is primarily the neighborhoods with a high proportion of socially disadvantaged inhabitants that a) have to bear the effects of Corona particularly clearly (high incidence rates) and that b) have hardly been reached by previous vaccination campaigns. 

In Bochum it was the Borough of Wattenscheidin which a particularly large number of residents had either not been vaccinated at all or had only been vaccinated once with Johnson&Johnson. Some of the people interviewed were afraid of side effects, misjudged the vaccination effect or belonged to the group of vaccination skeptics, corona deniers or conspiracy theorists. The largest group, however, was made up of people who had either not been adequately informed or were unaware of the available options because they were overwhelmed by the flood of information, inhibited by language barriers or had not even noticed the vaccination offer. 

In other words, there were many citizens who had not yet been vaccinated, but who were not fundamentally opposed to vaccination.

Task Force "Wattenscheid against Corona

On behalf of the Bochum Department for Youth, Social Affairs and Health, WB Risk Prevention Systems launched a task force in mid-December 2021. Employees of the Bochum health department, the municipal integration center and the health conference, volunteers from Wattenscheid and the district mayors joined forces as contact persons who already have access to the various communities and people on site. For the organization and moderation of the initial phase, our experts were Rita Diede-Stützel and Dr. Johannes Wamser, crisis manager of WB Risk Prevention Systems, responsible. 

The ultimate goals were a) to increase vaccination rates and b) to educate people on what to do in case of suspicion and/or infection. 

For this purpose, 14 vaccination pilots, who came from the relevant communities or spoke their language, were sent to the neighborhoods, where they were supported by medical professionals. The findings were collected daily and discussed jointly in the task force. Because of the "learning concept" in which "trail and error" are part of the strategy, we were able to respond daily to changing challenges. Our own experiences were supplemented by an intensive exchange with other municipalities, especially with the cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven, in order to learn from their "hits" and "shits" as well. 

The direct conversation in understandable language and from "person to person" created trust and the number of vaccinations could be significantly increased beyond the borders of Wattenscheid. In the further course of the campaign, the task force focused on public awareness and networking with stakeholders in Wattenscheid. In addition, a own website.

Challenge for municipal structures

For such a campaign to work, personal or political sensitivities must be put aside and hierarchical complications or conflicts of responsibility must be avoided. The usual communication interfaces and decision-making channels must become secondary. 

From our point of view, it is inspiring how well this has worked in Bochum and how much all those involved have embraced this path and thus supported the task force. 

"What was and is impressive is the commitment of the integration associations and volunteer vaccination pilots*, some of whom have only been living in Germany for a few years and yet were immediately ready to commit themselves fully to the right cause and to Bochum's urban society," says Johannes Wamser. "But it is also not a matter of course for the city administration to embark on a path outside the regular organization. Without the backing and support at all times of the entire Bochum administration - from the mayor, to the heads of departments and offices, to the employees - this project could not have been carried out successfully." 

Due to the positive effects, the city of Bochum has decided to continue the pilot strategy and expand it to other neighborhoods. In the long term, this also suggests that "outreach measures" in the neighborhoods on issues relating to health, prevention, care and therapy also make sense beyond Corona.

Contributed photo: Vaccination pilots and representatives of the task force at the meeting with Lord Mayor Thomas Eiskirch (Photo: André Grabowski, Press Office of the City of Bochum)

For the organization and moderation of the initial phase, our experts were Rita Diede-Stützel and Dr. Johannes Wamser, crisis manager of WB Risk Prevention Systems, responsible.