A study published today says Scotland has to work across its traditional boundaries to ensure the people who are not being reached by the covid vaccination programme – often also the ones potentially most at risk of serious harm from infection – are identified and supported to get protected.
Voluntary Health Scotland (VHS), a network of voluntary health organisations across Scotland, says there is a clear moral and human rights duty to those vulnerable groups, who are falling through the gaps in the way covid-19 vaccination is being delivered, to ensure “they are not failed by this crucially important public health intervention”.
VHS says it undertook the research to try to identify how to make the vaccination process as easy as possible for everyone including those most at risk because they are homeless, prisoners, people living in poverty, people who abuse drugs and alcohol, black and ethnic minority groups, gypsy travellers, refugees and asylum seekers.
The report, Vaccine Inclusion: reducing inequalities one vaccine at a time, concludes that the task of identifying and supporting everybody to get the vaccine is a responsibility of entire communities, not just the NHS, warning “against viewing the covid-19 vaccination programme as a silo rather than part of a wider whole-system, preventative approach to public health and health inequalities”.
It makes a series of recommendations including the need to gather and analyse local data on uptake of vaccination in different communities and groups, and a programme of outreach vaccination clinics with affordable transport to allow people to get to them.
VHS says the third sector and community partners need to have a bigger role in “planning, communications and delivery of public health interventions to try to prevent, mitigate and reduce health inequalities”.
The authors conclude that, while Scotland is vaccine confident nation and uptake of vaccines is generally high, this confidence and uptake is not being seen to the same extent in areas of deprivation and amongst certain ethnic minority groups.
By John Magill