Wales to prioritise homeless people in Covid vaccine rollout


Homeless people will be prioritised for coronavirus vaccines in Wales, the country’s Health Minister has confirmed.

Vaughan Gething said on Wednesday that all people with recent experience of homelessness in Wales will be included in priority group six.

Mr Gething told a press conference in Cardiff: ‘This includes people who are sleeping rough, people in emergency accommodation and people who were recently homeless but are now in supported accommodation.

‘Many people in this group will be living with underlying health conditions which put them at risk of coronavirus harm.’

The move does not apply to other parts of the UK.

It sees homeless people added to the group including ‘all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions, which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality’ – for which vaccinations are already being rolled out.

Group 5 includes people over 65, while group 7 is for those over 60.

Mr Gething continued: ‘It’s important that (homeless people) are offered vaccination to protect them and the wider community.

‘We’ll be working closely with local authorities, the third sector and housing organisations to make sure we reach all of those who are eligible and we’ll be taking the vaccine to people rather than expecting them to visit clinics for vaccination.’

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has so far stuck to a largely aged based approach to its priority groups, but life expectancy for homeless people is decades less than those who have homes.

Many will have been vaccinated already by falling into different priority categories, but there is the added difficulty of identifying them through GP records, since they may not be registered.

The Welsh government is expected to enlist the help of various organisations involved with the homeless community to locate them.

Katie Dalton, the director of Welsh homelessness charity Cymorth Cymru, which has campaigned for the move in recent weeks is ‘delighted’ with the move, Big Issue reported.

She said: ‘We are delighted that people experiencing homelessness are being prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine in Wales.

‘We have worked closely with the Welsh Government to evidence the particular risks to this population, and we are really pleased that ministers have responded through the publication of this guidance.’

It is unclear if the other UK nations will follow suit.

The move comes after Oldham Council insisted on prioritising homeless people in January, when it jabbed a number of homeless people in a pioneering scheme.

The UK government rolled out a programme to get all homeless people off the streets and into hotel rooms during the first wave of the pandemic – a move credited with saving hundreds of lives.

But there has since been criticism for of the Government for not offering more help to homeless people as the crisis continued.

Homeless deaths were up by more than a third last year, according to figures released last month.

Meanwhile, the UK’s vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi said there would be a ‘big uplift’ in vaccine supply in the coming weeks.

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Addressing the Women and Equalities Committee, he said: ‘In the second half of March you will see a big uplift in supply.

‘Up until now supply has been finite – we’ve had good volumes but when your supply is finite you have to make try and make sure that each region gets enough doses to do the cohort target – so when we were focused on [priority groups] one to four by the middle of February, we have to make sure that each region have that vaccine available to them.

‘Now, obviously as we see more – and I’m expecting 10s of millions of doses to come through – that becomes a little bit easier which allows us, for example, to double the number of pharmacies that will come online for delivery.’

Nearly 23 million people have had a first dose of the vaccine, with a further 1.25 million second jabs also confirmed, according to official figures published on Wednesday.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

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