Homeless people will get Covid-19 jabs in the first scheme of its kind in the UK – after a council took matters into its own hands and prioritised them for the vaccine.
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, alongside those over 80.
A clinic was organised at a shelter for the homeless in Oldham, Greater Manchester, where around 30 people were given the jab – with more planned.
It comes after others claimed there is ‘no uniform process’ across England with regards to who is prioritised for the vaccine, claiming GPs and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) seem to be using their ‘own discretion’.
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.
He told MailOnline: ‘We don’t know if we can or can’t decide, but with such a low life expectancy of 43-45, homeless people are an extremely vulnerable group in our opinion.
Kelly Heney pictured receiving an injection of the Covid-19 vaccine at the Depaul UK homeless shelter in Oldham, Greater Manchester, as the local council and GPs launch an effort to vaccinate homeless people in the town to protect them from the virus
Lee Ullha receives an injection of the Covid-19 vaccine at the Depaul UK homeless shelter in Oldham. Around 30 people were given the jab after a clinic was organised at the shelter
‘So they will come in the highly vulnerable group anyway and people in this group can be identified by our GPs. It is the right thing to do.’
He earlier 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.”‘
Dr Chauhan continued: ‘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.’
He added: ‘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.’
Baroness Campbell tweeted this morning: ‘There isn’t a uniform process across the country sadly.
NHS staff are pictured preparing to administer an Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the Depaul UK homeless shelter in Oldham, Greater Manchester
An NHS worker holds up a vial of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the clinic in Oldham. 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
‘It seems that GP practices and CCG’s are behaving under their differently, using the own discretion.
‘Personally, I made a good case to my GP who then agreed that the guidance empowered him to get me vaccinated.’
Couple Kelly Heney, 38, and Lee Ullha, 46, stay 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.
NHS staff prepare to administer the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the Depaul UK homeless shelter in Oldham, Greater Manchester
‘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.’
Ms Heney and Mr Ullah were each fined £120 and ordered to pay £85 costs and £95 to victim services for credit card theft and attempted fraud in December last year, according to the Oldham Times.
MailOnline has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care for comment.