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Derby unites to vaccinate homeless people

Published on Friday 14 May 2021

A collaboration between GPs, ambulance staff, the council and a charity has helped to provide Covid-19 vaccinations for some of Derby’s most vulnerable people.

The clinic at Safe Space on May 11 vaccinated 110 people with a history of homelessness and rough sleeping, most of whom were receiving their second doses of the vaccine, following previous clinics held in February.

The project was led by Derby City GP Dr Raj Komal and Community Paramedic for Rough Sleepers Tracy Cunningham, who both worked closely with Derby City Council and Safe Space at Derby City Mission to reach out to homeless people and provide an appropriate setting for the vaccinations.

Dr Komal said it was an incredibly rewarding experience and would help the individuals and the wider community: “First and foremost this is about protecting these patients, who are vulnerable to infection and who we often fail to reach with crucial elements of the healthcare system. They will be safer and healthier as a result.

“But this is also about the health of the wider community, because vaccinating the most vulnerable people helps to stop the virus spreading.”

“It’s part of our work to reach every part of our community, working through local leaders and listening to them when it comes to the best ways.”

The clinic was also supported by staff from DHU Healthcare.

Dr Robyn Dewis, Director of Public Health, Derby City Council, said: “It’s heartening to see another step in protecting Derby’s vulnerable citizens, particularly as we begin to unlock further from severe restrictions. 

“Having the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is absolutely vital to give you the best protection possible – anyone who has been invited to receive theirs should accept as soon as possible.”

Tim Slater, General Manager for Derbyshire at East Midlands Ambulance Service said: 

“EMAS support for such schemes as this in Derbyshire is entering its third year, and throughout the last 12 months it has presented new challenges for all. We are really pleased to be able to help meet the health needs of vulnerable groups and demonstrate the value of the paramedic role within such teams.”

Phil Morton, Head of Crisis Support at Derby City Mission said: 

“We’re committed to partnership working at Safe Space across the board. By developing the relationships with the specialists and Derby City Council, we have been able to offer the more vulnerable and homeless individuals an opportunity to receive this vital medical help. They wouldn’t usually have access to a GP surgery or vaccine centre, so we’re delighted that the community has engaged and we have demonstrated what we stand for, by providing a ‘safe space’ to see lives transformed”

Kevin, 42, was among those who attended the clinic, and said he was pleased to have the chance to receive his second dose: “As you get older, you think about your health more and I wanted to get it. I’ve stayed at the Mission before, and Tracy told me about the vaccines, and I knew I needed it. I know a few people who don’t want it, but I need it. I’m really pleased.”

Healthcare teams in Derby recognised early in the vaccination programme that many people who are homeless or sleeping rough are at increased risk of being infected with Covid-19, exacerbating underlying conditions and suffering serious illness from Covid-19 itself.

From the beginning of the vaccination programme, the Government’s Joint Committee on Immunisation and Vaccination (JCVI) empowered GPs to identify and offer vaccinations to anyone who was at such risk.

In March, JCVI formally recommended that vaccination teams consider a universal offer to adults experiencing homelessness and rough sleeping.

Vaccinating vulnerable people reduces their risk of infection and ill health, as well as making it less likely that they will transmit the virus to others. 

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