England: People who are homeless to be prioritised for vaccine
People who are homeless in England are to be prioritised for the coronavirus vaccine after the UK Government accepted advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
In a letter to secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock at the start of the month, the JCVI had advised that local teams should exercise operational judgement and consider universal offer of the vaccine to people experiencing homelessness, alongside delivery to people in priority group six.
Accepting the advice yesterday, Mr Hancock said he asked NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI) to take it forward alongside the JCVI’s recommendation on a pragmatic approach to the dosing schedule considering the likelihood of follow up for this group.
He added that his officials have also shared the advice with those leading the vaccines deployment programmes in each of the four nations of the UK.
Mr Hancok said: “I welcome the advice to give flexibility to local teams to make a universal vaccine offer to those in their area who are homeless or rough sleepers alongside cohort 6 in phase 1 of the vaccine deployment programme. I have asked NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI) to take this forward alongside your recommendation on a pragmatic approach to the dosing schedule considering the likelihood of follow up for this group.
“Thank you also for your advice that vaccination of detainees should continue to be prioritised in line with the wider population prioritisation arrangements but that every effort should be made to encourage take up within those cohorts given the vulnerabilities of this group who are often from disadvantaged communities.
“I have considered carefully your advice on whether any vaccine left over in detained settings could be used for prison staff and have advised NHSEI that this should be done wherever possible. In practice the deployment programme is now at a stage where there are significant numbers of detained individuals in relevant cohorts. I have therefore asked NHSE to bear the JCVI advice in mind for the future, considering its practicality, should current circumstances change.
“Finally thank you for the advice on vaccine dosing and intervals. You confirmed your advice that we should continue with a strategy of ensuring all adults receive 2 doses of the currently available vaccines with an emphasis on ensuring maximum numbers receive the first dose. Your advice that for AstraZeneca the dosing interval for maximum effectiveness should now be 8 to 12 weeks is noted and is in line with our current approach.
“My officials have also shared your advice with my colleagues leading the vaccines deployment programmes in each of the four nations of the UK.”
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “We welcome the Secretary of State’s acceptance and commitment to this advice from JCVI. As it makes clear, local areas can prioritise people who are homeless for vaccination and must make appropriate considerations in their vaccine rollout plans.
“People without a home experience severe health inequalities, including being almost twice as likely to have heart disease and respiratory conditions which will increase their risk from Covid-19, so it is vital they are able to access the vaccine as quickly as possible.
“The UK Government must now ensure that, working with homelessness services, all local areas have the resources they need to make this happen.
“But make no mistake, the vaccine will not make homelessness safe. Whether it is living on the streets, or in cars and sheds, or constantly moving between friends’ sofas, homelessness is extremely damaging to both your physical and mental health. We desperately need a plan to ensure everyone has a safe and secure home.”