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NEWS ROUNDUP: Vaccine equality plan and rugby research



A senior Leeds City Council politician has said ‘nobody should be left behind’ when it comes to Covid-19 vaccinations in the city.

The comments come as Leeds City Council decision-makers are set to meet next week to discuss a “roadmap” to help tackle inequalities in vaccine take-up throughout Leeds.

The authority has been working alongside NHS chiefs to encourage all communities across the city to take up Covid-19 vaccinations, which include the introduction of a vaccination bus with dedicated staff, pop up vaccination teams, and women-only vaccination clinics.

Coun Salma Arif, the authority’s executive member for public health, believes as many people as possible need to be vaccinated in order for Leeds to safely continue the easing of lockdown restrictions continues.

She said: “We strongly believe that no one should be left behind in our city and we are doing all we can to ensure no community is unfairly affected irrespective of colour or religious belief.

“We want to hear from you if you are not sure about getting the vaccine or if there is something stopping you from getting vaccinated. Getting as many people vaccinated as possible is our best route out of lockdown; and will help us return to seeing more of our family and friends and doing the activities we enjoy.”

The vaccine inequality “roadmap” in Leeds was published today ahead of the council’s main decision making executive board meeting next week.

Leeds City Council said the approach is focussed on reaching those most at risk of severe illness and death from Covid-19.

Groups of GPs are working together with local communities to deliver the vaccine in local venues which are known to local people and easily accessible.

A statement from the council added: “Conversations are also taking place with people who are hesitant or have refused the vaccine to build confidence and provide facts and information on the benefits.

“A roving vaccine programme has been created which includes a vaccination bus with dedicated staff, pop up facilities suitable for churches or community centres and on-foot vaccination teams. Women only vaccination clinics are also being offered.

“The council is working with over 50 organisations across the city to make the vaccine as accessible as possible, targeting those people who may face barriers to accessing the vaccine including sex workers, the homeless and drug users.”

It added that plans have been created to help tackle low uptake in certain areas by working with local community champions, third sector organisations and faith leaders – these include door-knocking and speaking to people on their doorsteps.

The Rugby Football League will shortly launch a pilot for an extensive game-wide research project to quantify the risk of head impact in the sport with the aim of increasing understanding and reducing future risk.

The 12 Betfred Super League clubs have agreed to work with the RFL on the Instrumented Mouthguard Project, with research to be led by Leeds Beckett University.

It is intended to cover more than 1,200 players across 50 teams at various levels of the game, also including Academy players, the Betfred Women’s Super League – which resumes this weekend - and a number of different age groups at Community clubs.

The pilots will run from May to August, and will involve the research team testing different instrumented mouthguards on the various groups of players in both training and matches. The findings of the pilot study will inform which instrumented mouthguards are selected for the project to begin in November 2021 and run for three years.

It is intended that the research project will align with the detailed injury surveillance which is already underway for the Men’s and Women’s Super League and (Men’s) Academy competitions, with a focus on three questions:

1 – What are the head impact exposures across Rugby League, to quantify player load profiles?

2 – How does tackle technique and tackle height influence head impacts within Rugby League?

3 – What are the biomechanical mechanisms during concussion events in Super League?

Professor Ben Jones, the lead researcher from Leeds Beckett University and the Head of Performance of the RFL’s England Performance Unit, said: “In Rugby League as in other sports, there is widespread recognition of the need to maximise our understanding of the impact of head collisions. Mouthguard technology has recently developed rapidly, allowing valid measures of head impacts and movement.

“Instrumented mouthguards are already being used by some clubs in Rugby League (with Leeds Rhinos using them since 2020 and Salford Red Devils starting to use them for the 2021 Season); however, a game-wide project will enable a better understanding across different levels of the sport with a bigger data set.”

The data provided will allow a detailed analysis of head accelerations, which can then be used to better understand the load players are exposed to in Rugby League. The biomechanics aspects of the project will be led by Dr Gregory Tierney (University of Leeds and Ulster University).

Karen Moorhouse, the RFL’s Chief Regulatory Officer, said:

“The wellbeing of players is a top priority of the RFL and clubs. The RFL has protocols across the game in relation to concussion (covering recognition, removal and rehabilitation) with the aim of protecting the welfare and health of players. These protocols have evolved as a result of increased knowledge of concussions.  The RFL sees this project (and the ability to make evidence-based decisions on the basis of the outcomes) as an important next step in the understanding of head impacts and has committed to it for the benefit of current and future players.”

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