Homeless prioritised for Covid-19 vaccine in UK first

Oldham Council and local GPs decided vulnerable homeless people should be in a priority group for the jab.

Coronavirus – Wed Jan 13, 2021
Coronavirus – Wed Jan 13, 2021

The Covid-19 vaccine has been given to homeless people in the first scheme of its kind in the UK aimed at protecting rough sleepers and those living in shelters from the virus.

Oldham Council and local GPs decided the town’s homeless people should be made a priority group to get the vaccine at the start of the rollout.

A clinic was organised at a shelter for the homeless in Oldham where around 30 people were given the jab, with more planned.

Dr Zahid Chauhan, who is also an Oldham councillor with responsibility for health and social care, said homeless people should be on the priority list because along with those aged 80 and over, they are more at risk from the virus.

Dr Chauhan said: “I’m absolutely delighted.

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

“These are the most extremely vulnerable people, the life expectancy is 43, 45, there is a reason why their life expectancy is so low.

“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.

“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. Please put them in a priority group.

“That’s the right thing to do. That’s the human thing to do.

“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.”

Coronavirus – Wed Jan 13, 2021
Lee Ullha receives an injection of a Covid-19 vaccine at the Depaul UK homeless shelter in Oldham (Peter Byrne/PA)

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 said: “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.”

Dr Salim Mohammed, an Oldham GP helping with the vaccinations, added: “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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