Homeless people given the Covid vaccines by council in UK first

Homeless people are being vaccinated against Covid-19 as part of a pioneering scheme after a council insisted rough sleepers and those living in shelters should be prioritised.

Under the Department of Health’s mass vaccination plan, the over-80s, care home residents and health and social care workers are first in line to receive the jab.

But Oldham Council and local GPs insisted homeless people should be protected among the first cohort of people receiving the vaccine because they, along with the elderly, are most at risk from the virus.

About 30 people in the area have so far been vaccinated after a clinic was set up at Depaul homeless shelter in Oldham, with more planned to receive the jab.

Dr Zahid Chauhan, who is also an Oldham councillor responsible for health and social care, said homeless people are ‘extremely vulnerable’ and their life expectancy is between just 43 and 45 years.

He said he was ‘absolutely delighted’ with the scheme, as he issued a direct plea to the government to ‘please’ prioritise the homeless as it is ‘the right and human thing to do’.

Dr Chauhan added: ‘It is setting an example for the rest of the country, rest of the world, and saying, “Please, please don’t ignore these people”.’

‘We can protect them, and if they catch Covid they become ill and if they become ill, that’s where you end up in hospitals, if you are lucky, your hospital beds go, your ICU beds go,’ he continued.

‘So it makes absolute sense from all directions to actually vaccinate these people and I’m still requesting government, please consider again, it is my plea to you, these are extremely vulnerable people’.

Homeless couple Kelly Heney, 38, and Lee Ullha 46, live at the homeless shelter where they were vaccinated with the Oxford AstraZeneca jab.

Mr Ullha said: ‘We got evicted when this Covid thing kicked in, that’s why we were living in the park so we didn’t really watch TV, so we didn’t really know much about it.

‘It’s scary, especially with the new strain of Covid, I don’t think people take it as serious as it is, you see people walking round without their masks and it’s, they’re all saying, “It’s not a real thing, it’s all make believe.”

‘It’s important to get it done. It’s for your own safety.’

Ms Heney added: ‘For me, I can’t believe it’s just happened. I’m excited and so happy that we have actually just had the Covid injection because it’s a big thing.’

The vaccinations came as the UK today recorded another 1,564 deaths, the highest daily toll since the pandemic began, while more than 100,000 fatalities have been linked to Covid-19.

The Government sees the vaccines as a way out of the pandemic and is aiming to have the top four priority groups offered their first jab by mid-February.

Urging the government to take notice of Oldham’s scheme and implement it across the country, Dr Chauhan added: ‘You don’t give up on people because they don’t have resources and they have not been privileged like me and you.

‘You don’t give up, that’s not what we do as British, these are not our British values. We help people, we pull them together.

‘It could be any one of us tomorrow.’

Dr Salim Mohammed, a GP helping with the vaccinations in Oldham, said: ‘It’s hard not to see their reaction and feel very warm inside because they were so happy and you could see it.

‘It’s just another day in medicine.’

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