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Councils and GPs prioritise Covid vaccinations for homeless people and rough sleepers

by Awil Mohamoud
15 January 2021

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Redbridge council has joined other local authorities in committing to ensuring homeless people receive a Covid-19 vaccination as priority.

The council announced earlier this week (13 January) that it was rolling out a programme to vaccinate rough sleepers in the borough, using spare vaccination slots at three local centres.

The scheme – which was due to begin yesterday (14 January) – will also provide fast track access to lateral flow and PCR testing to homeless individuals, the council said. 

The London-based council will use an outreach worker to support rough sleepers in the borough rather than using a paper or electronic referral, it added.

This announcement comes as Oldham council started vaccinating homeless people in the borough against Covid this week, after giving this population ‘priority’, alongside the over 80s:

In a statement last week (4 January), Oldham council said it had come together with local GPs to offer the vaccine ‘to people who find themselves with no permanent home, along with other groups already receiving the vaccine’ over the coming weeks and months. 

Zahid Chauhan, Oldham councillor and GP, said: ‘Unfortunately Oldham, like towns and cities across the country does have people who are homeless – many through no fault of their own. People living on the streets, or those who have no permanent address, are some of the most vulnerable people in society and need help and support.

‘Because they live on the streets they can also come into contact with a large number of people, which means if they have coronavirus there is a big risk they could pass it on to others. That’s why it is important they are offered the vaccine.’

Under current advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), care home residents should be the first group prioritised for Covid vaccinations, followed by those aged over 80 and frontline health and care workers. 

The Government’s recently announced vaccine delivery plan said that everyone in the top four priority groups will have been offered the first dose by mid-February.

Dr Salim Mohammed, another Oldham GP, said: ‘We’ve been vaccinating people in Oldham over the last few weeks, starting with the most at risk group, the over 80s. It’s important that we continue to vaccinate those most at risk from COVID-19, and this includes people impacted by homelessness.

‘We are in the process of planning how we can vaccinate this group. They are already some of the most vulnerable people in our society and it’s important their risk of contracting COVID is reduced.’

Meanwhile, Oxford City Council told Management in Practice that planning is underway across Oxfordshire for rough sleepers and homeless people to be included among the priority groups to receive the vaccine as it is rolled out. 

This includes vaccinations for people ‘sleeping rough, in temporary accommodation and staff in outreach and other homelessness services’, a spokesperson for Oxford City Council said.