Leeds GATE

Working to improve the quality of life for Gypsies and Travellers

0113 240 2444

Crown Point House,
167-169 Cross Green Lane,
Leeds LS9 0BD

Case Studies: immunisations partnership work

Eileen Lowther/Helen Jones (Chair/CEO Leeds GATE) attended the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) conference “Inform, protect, immunise; engaging underserved populations”  in Dublin in early September 2012

Learning/Action points

  • Measles and whooping cough are really serious and there is indication that some people among Gypsy and Irish Traveller communities are not taking it seriously, even engaging in very risky behaviour such as taking obviously ill (spotty) children to events including conventions and weddings.
  • You can ask a doctor to check if you or your children have immunity
  • We must make sure that people who pay for measles vac separately know it is a course of injections not just one.
  • See above in regards to the value of ‘health mediators’.
  • See mention of a WHO tool, can the Federation or member groups access funding to carry out work using this tool?
  • The Spanish Roma Integration strategy was spoken of as best practice and might be worth looking into.
  • Keep an eye out for an ECDC toolkit to be called ‘lets talk about protection’
  • Clear need for much greater emphasis on ‘building capacity to engage’ among healthcare professionals at all levels.
  • Health Protection Agency have produced leaflets on whooping cough and measles.  They can be downloaded from their website or will provide directly on request.  Contact  Aileen Kitching:  aileen.kitching@hpa.org.uk  The leaflets have been proof read by women from ITMB’s health group who fed back that although there is a lot of words the information was all important.   It could do with one of the pictures being of a Gypsy or Travelling person as other Travellers would then recognise that the leaflet is specifically intended for them, this might be possible in future if Aileen can be supplied with a suitable picture (just a head shot of someone sneezing or looking ill)  Leeds GATE will look into accompanying the HPA leaflet with a smaller more pictorial leaflet, we’ll share if we do.
  • The best possible way of getting information out to Gypsies and Travellers in the UK was suggested as being via storylines in one of the popular tv soaps.  Aileen Kitchen has a link to a television producer which she is going to follow up.

On return from the conference an information stall was staffed by Leeds GATE at the local regular horse fair which many Gypsy and Traveller people attend from near and far.  A specific leaflet (attached) was produced to accompany HPA leaflets provided by Aileen Kitching.  We learned that:

  • There was lot of confusion about getting measles even tho you were vaccinated and this leading to some people believing it wasn’t as harmful as made out.
  • There was a lot of support for the vaccines expressed which was perhaps surprising, one or two still believing the hype about mmr but also quite a few dismissing it.
  • Some people thought GATE staff were nurses and would have had children immunised there and then, one even said ‘I’ve got the red books in the car’.  Missed opportunity perhaps.
  • We were surprised that it was, on balance, more men than women who chose to talk to the GATE team, on reflection that might be to do with the women being more interested in the shopping opportunity the Fair presents!  However it would have been a good chance to slip in a bit of information about men’s cancers etc.
  • Sadly there was a lot of discussion about GPs not being welcoming, being removed from registers because of not being in the area etc.
  • Overall there was a lot of support and people welcomed the effort and information provided.

Sadly two weeks later the local HPA reported to GATE about a measles outbreak among a Gypsy family in Leeds.  By great luck a colleague who previously worked at Leeds GATE and is now a trainee public health specialist was available to attend with the HPA team who visited the families at home.  Five children were hospitalised as a result although thankfully they are now recovering at home.

Leeds GATE liaised with the HPA for a team to visit the Local Authority site on 2nd Oct 2012 to carry out an emergency immunisation session and to provide information. Leeds GATE staff supported the HPA staff through out the event,  HPA fed back that our support was invaluable, indeed ‘We couldn’t have done it without you’!

The day before the immunisation session Leeds GATE staff promoted the event by word of mouth to families on the site and to members visiting the GATE office. On the day a member of GATE met the immunisation team and facilitated access to the council office. A team of nurses based themselves in the office whilst  a representative from Public Health visited residents homes supported by GATE staff.

An example of the discussion that went on with those community members who were fearful of the MMR is as follows;

“My brothers child was fit and health until he got the MMR, soon after he developed autism”

“My cousins child became deaf after the MMR”

“If anything happened to my child after the MMR I would never forgive myself, If they died from measles then at least it would be Gods will”.

Open discussion was had with parents and to counter argument was given, some parents were very thankful of this as they commented that due to lack of literacy they do not know much of this information.

Some parents attended and chatted about what they perceive as the dangers of MMR and still decided not to go ahead with the immunisation.  Some parents attended just to check that their children were up to date.  26 children and young people were immunised. Find below report by Emma Williams from the Immunisation Team.

Leeds GATE will continue to work closely with the HPA and are discussing the practicalities of using the GATE office for further sessions.

Cottingley Springs MMR Immunisation Session 02/10/12 in response to measles outbreak 

Emma Williams
School Immunisation
Team Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust


MMR Dosesgiven

Under 16

1st dose

Over 16

1st dose

Under 16

2nd dose

Over 16

2nd dose

Seen but

up to date

Number immunised







Total doses given:


  • 7 requests for HPV – We are looking at the possibility of doing HPV sessions at Cottingley Springs.