DJs and pop-ups: Cities try to boost jab uptake

27 August 2021

In July, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen declared that the EU had reached its target on vaccination, with 70% of adults having received one dose and 57% fully vaccinated.

But the progression of the highly contagious Delta variant, coupled with a slowing uptake of vaccines among some populations, has led to fears among European governments that the pandemic could once again slip out of control.

And while some national governments such as France and Italy have chosen to use the stick by mandating ‘vaccine passports’ in certain public areas, local governments across the continent have opted instead for the carrot to boost uptake among the unvaccinated.

Doses and notes

In Italy, just under half of 20-29 year olds had received at least one dose by July, a lower figure than other age groups. That’s why in the city of Cagliari, an initiative has been set up to entice young people to get their jab.

From 31 August, local health provider ATS Sardegna will host “Open Nights” for young people, with DJs playing music and vaccines running until midnight. What’s more, no reservation is required. And for those worried about an impromptu rave at the vaccine centre, there are preventative measures. “[The music] will be soft, we are not at a concert,” ATS Special Commissioner Massimo Temussi told local media.

In the North of Europe, Belgium has gone from being one of the world’s worst-hit countries per capita by the pandemic, hamstrung by a slow initial roll-out of vaccines, to one of the countries with the highest coverage in the world.

But this image is not uniform across the Kingdom. In Brussels, for instance, just 61% of adults are fully vaccinated, compared to 83% nationwide. This has contributed to higher rates of Covid-19 incidence in the capital city. When looking closely at the data, two markers are clear: younger people and people living in the western neighbourhoods have lower rates of vaccination.

Reaching the unreachable

To combat this, the Joint Community Commission of the Brussels-Capital Region, which is in charge of vaccination, is deploying pop-up vaccine spots in supermarkets, clothes shops and furniture stores.

“We find that various target groups are not or hardly reached through the regular channels of the government or the media,” Dominique Michel, Chief Executive Officer of trade federation Comeos, told local media.

Shoppers will be jabbed with the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, meaning they will not have to return to a vaccine centre after several weeks for their second shot.

“Our objectives are clear: 16,000 doses per week in the coming weeks in order to reach a vaccination rate of 65% for the first dose by the end of October. Together, we can fight this virus!” tweeted Brussels’ Health Minister, Alain Maron.