Homeless people have been moved up the priority list for Covid-19 vaccines, the government has confirmed.
The decision comes following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), who said people who are homeless or sleeping rough were likely to have underlying health conditions.
It said there was a “unique opportunity” to offer the vaccine to the thousands of people housed in emergency accommodation.
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Who is on the priority list?
The Covid-19 vaccine priority list was set out by the JCVI and includes nine categories, with care home residents and carers, people aged over 80, and frontline health and social care workers forming the top two groups.
This was followed by people aged 75 and over, and those deemed to be “clinically extremely vulnerable”.
The vaccine programme is now in its second phase, after everyone in the first four priority groups were offered a jab by mid-February, with the rollout now being expanded to include those aged 60 and over, and those with underlying health conditions.
The over 50s will follow and it is hoped that all adults in priority groups five to nine will have been offered a jab by 15 April. This includes the following:
- Group 5 – all those aged 65 and over
- Group 6 – adults aged 16 to 65 in with underlying health conditions
- Group 7 – all those aged 60 and over
- Group 8 – all those aged 55 and over
- Group 9 – all those aged 50 and over
Homeless people and rough sleepers will now be included in Group 6, along with people with underlying health conditions.
They will be offered the vaccine without the need for an NHS number, or GP registration.
Saving more lives
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he had accepted advice from the JCVI and the decision to bump homeless people up the priority list would “save more lives among those most at risk in society”.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, JCVI Covid-19 chairman, said: “The JCVI’s advice on Covid-19 vaccine prioritisation was developed with the aim of preventing as many deaths as possible.
“People experiencing homelessness are likely to have health conditions that put them at higher risk of death from Covid-19.
“This advice will help us to protect more people who are at greater risk, ensuring that fewer people become seriously ill or die from the virus.”
The JCVI said the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine “will be easier to deploy to this group of people” and local decisions could be made on shortening the interval between doses if it was unlikely a person would return for a second dose.
Mr Hancock said: “Our vaccination rollout is moving at an incredible speed, with two in every five adults now having received at least one vaccine.
“It’s so important that nobody gets left behind in this national effort.
“We know there are heightened risks for those who sleep rough and today I have accepted the advice of the independent experts at the JCVI to prioritise those experiencing rough-sleeping or homelessness for vaccination alongside priority group six.”