Redbridge Council in London has become the latest local authority to vaccinate homeless people against Covid-19, ahead of the national Government vaccine programme.
Oldham couple Lee Ullha and Kelly Heney are believed to be the first people who have experienced homelessness to get the jab after the Greater Manchester local authority defied government guidance.
The pair were vaccinated yesterday with Oldham councillor Dr Zahid Chauhan urging other local authorities to follow his example.
Councillors in Redbridge have risen to the challenge and kicked off their test and vaccination programme on Thursday.
Redbridge Cabinet member for adult social care and health, Cllr Mark Santos, said: “Vaccination is not a silver bullet, but it is a very positive and significant part of a programme of measures to tackle this virus.
“I am proud that we are able to take a truly inclusive approach to protecting our residents as we continue this.”
Redbridge Council’s public health team is working with addiction charity Westminster Drug Project to offer access to tests and vaccines.
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Rough sleepers will be able to get a free Covid test at Ilford’s Ryedale Care Centre while spare vaccination slots will be available at Ilford Town Hall, Hawkey Hall, and Fullwell Medical Centre.
Outreach workers will be on-hand to make the process of getting a jab smoother and removing barriers to healthcare that some face while living on the streets.
Redbridge Council leader Jas Athwal added: “We pledged to end rough sleeping in Redbridge, and are taking action to support some of the most vulnerable people in our borough to turn their lives around and get back on their feet.
“Alongside this commitment, councillor Santos and our Public Health team have been working hard for months to develop a test and vaccination programme specifically for local rough sleepers – protecting those most in need during this difficult time.
“Thanks to this incredible work, Redbridge will, this week, become one of the first councils in the country to roll out a targeted test and vaccination programme for local rough sleepers.”
Redbridge’s efforts come a day after Oldham Council kicked off their programme to vaccinate homeless people.
Homelessness is not currently considered a key determining factor on who receives priority access to a Covid-19 vaccine. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised all four nations across the UK to vaccinate based on age.
A Government spokesperson told The Big Issue that this approach delivers on the “clear aim of preventing as many deaths as possible, and protecting the health and social care system”.
Ministers in charge of the vaccine roll-out are currently targeting four priority groups – including people aged over 80 and frontline key workers and amounting to 13 million people – by mid-February. So far, three million doses have been handed out to the public in England.