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Engaging Caribbean and Somali communities in COVID-19 vaccine studies in the West of England



Community Engagement Link roles 

The NIHR Clinical Research Network West of England seeks to engage two Community Engagement Links to coordinate and facilitate outreach work with underserved groups, focused specifically on the COVID-19 vaccine trials. We are initially looking to appoint two engagement links: one focused on engagement with the Somali community, and one with the Caribbean community in Bristol and the West of England.

Our aim of the project is to increase the diversity of participants signed to the NHS Vaccine Registry. In turn, we hope that our sample of those participating in vaccine trials becomes more representative of our local population. We also wish to understand some of the ways in which we can design and deliver a research participant experience that provides equity of access and participation.

We wish to partner with another organisation for this role, and can offer £8,100 to fund an individual’s time between now and 31 March 2021. We envisage a commitment of around 15-18 hours per week, but are open to discussions with interested organisations.

Deadline extended! We would like expressions of interest by 23:59 on Sunday 6 December 2020. Please email these, or any questions, to

Useful links

Sign up to be contacted about coronavirus vaccine research

Press release: People from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds and the elderly encouraged to participate in vital COVID-19 vaccine studies


Ethnic minorities are currently under-represented in vaccine clinical trials taking place across the UK, with only 11,000 volunteers from Asian and British Asian backgrounds while 1,200 are Black, African, Caribbean or Black British. Overall, the number of people in the UK who have signed up to take part in COVID-19 research through the NIHR and NHS Digital delivered NHS Covid-19 vaccine research registry is over 270,000, just six months after the first studies opened for recruitment.

In the West of England region, Black individuals are significantly less likely to have registered than those of other ethnic backgrounds. In Bristol, while 6% of our population are of a Black ethnic background, only 0.5% of our vaccine trial registrants are of a Black ethnic background.

Research throughout the COVID pandemic suggests members of the Black and South Asian communities are more at risk of contracting and dying from COVID than those from White communities. Earlier this year, the Office for National Statistics reported that Black people are four times more likely to die from COVID than White people. The reasons for this have been debated widely and have highlighted inequalities present in our societies that include access to healthcare. 

This, in turn, has focused attention on research participants, and in particular ‘underserved communities’, who are generally not well-represented in research. Existing work on widening access to different groups in research has gained momentum, with increased concentration on working harder to reach out to people from different ethnic backgrounds.

We expect our Community Engagement Link to:

  • Promote awareness of and engagement in vaccine research, particularly encouraging signing-up to the vaccine registry, and discussing misconceptions surrounding health research and vaccines.
  • Disseminate information and communications regarding participation in vaccine research.
  • Build and foster relationships with community leaders and organisations. Curate and maintain a database of contacts and resources.
  • Develop discussion with the public regarding participation in vaccine trials, including perceptions and barriers.
  • Network and collaborate to achieve these aims, working with local organisations who share similar visions and aims to reduce inequality, including local authorities, our partner organisations, local universities, and other arms of the NIHR.
  • Capture lessons learned from participants’ experiences, sharing case studies, examples and opportunities for improvement and learning.

What would we look for in a Community Engagement Link?

We are looking for somebody who: 

  • Is able to speak confidently about participation in vaccine research, and is able to answer basic questions and talk through misconceptions. They may not know the answers themselves, but are able to find out from others in the CRN.
  • Is good at understanding and relating to others, able to listen to and understand others’ experiences, identifying common themes and communicating these with others in ways that can promote positive action.
  • Is persistent and resilient, prepared to try different and unfamiliar approaches to create meaningful connections with others. The role may involve having difficult conversations and discussing potentially uncomfortable topics, but this is key to us learning.
  • Is approachable and trustworthy, and able to build and maintain sustainable interpersonal relationships.
  • May have education or training in healthcare or (social) sciences, or have previous experience in working in a healthcare setting, voluntary service organisation (VSO) or university. This is desirable and not mandatory, but may help in offering a foundation of research knowledge.

We will provide relevant training and support, particularly in relation to vaccine research and COVID-19.

The Community Engagement Link will work closely with the Communications and Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) Team, reporting regularly to the Business and Operations Manager. The Link will be supported by an experienced communications, PPIE and events team, who are keen to work alongside and assist our Community Links in the project’s aims.

About the NIHR Clinical Research Network

The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) supports patients, the public and health and care organisations across England to participate in high-quality research, advancing knowledge and improving care.

Our local network supports NHS trusts, primary care, public health and social care across Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon, Gloucestershire, and North Wiltshire.

The CRN is currently coordinating COVID-19 research across the region, including the search for a coronavirus vaccine.

For further information please contact:
Look at our website:
and our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook channels: @crnwestengland