Some of the country’s most clinically vulnerable people have yet to receive the coronavirus vaccination, Guardian analysis shows.
Ministers had said all clinically extremely vulnerable adults would be offered a vaccination by 15 February, but more than a month later some people who housebound because of health problems have yet to be offered a jab they can actually access.
People whose disability or age means that they are unable to get to one of the mass vaccine centres around the country were meant to be visited by a “mobile health worker” at home, similar to that offered to care home residents. However, while government figures suggest nearly nine in 10 people who are clinically extremely vulnerable have received a first dose, a number who are housebound are missing out, with some being expected to travel miles to a vaccine centre.
Kim Liddell, 49, from Cheshire, is housebound due to the nerve condition cauda equina syndrome, and is still waiting for a home visit. “I’ve spoken to my GP practice and all I have been told is they are in the process of setting up clinics,” she says. “The worst part of this is my father died from Covid three weeks ago. And I am at massive risk as my son, who lives with me, is a teacher, doesn’t drive [and has gone] back to face-to-face teaching. I’m absolutely petrified.”
Sue Nott is 75 and needs daily carers to help with her complex health needs, and a hoist to move. When her son, Steven, told the vaccine phone line last month that she was housebound, they put her on a home visit list but he hasn’t heard anything since. “I can’t believe she still hasn’t had her jab yet,” he says. “It’s a scandal.”
James Taylor, executive director of Strategy at Scope, said: “We’re alarmed that disabled people are slipping through the net and struggling to get vaccines at home. Our helpline has heard from disabled people who would find it impossible or excruciating to travel to an appointment but, due to out-of-date medical information, have been missed off the list for vaccinations at home. Others have said they feel like they have slipped through the system, after being invited to a vaccination appointment they cannot attend and then told their condition does not merit a home visit.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, says more older people becoming housebound over the last year may also be leading to some “falling through the cracks” for a vaccine: “Worryingly, in many cases health and care professionals and even friends and families may not fully realise the impact lockdown has had if they haven’t been able to see someone face to face for a long time. Also, after such a long time some older people will have lost their support networks and might not have anyone else to turn to for help.”
The Guardian has also heard from severely ill people whose physical or mental health has been affected by them having to take an appointment at a vaccine centre because they could not get a home visit.
Jennifer, 33, has been shielding all year because of a neurological condition and asthma. She spent weeks using her limited energy to chase her GP and the vaccine line for a home visit – “Phone calls are exhausting to me,” she says – but has now had to accept an appointment outside. “Trips like this always leave me with pain and fatigue that takes days to weeks to recover from.”
Sarah, who has diabetes, severe mental health problems and sleep apnoea, struggles to leave the house but was told to travel 20 miles to a vaccine centre. When she “built up the courage” she called her GP, the vaccine line and 119 but says she was given no help. “I’m so scared,” she says. “All the papers and news is saying that everyone in the clinically extremely vulnerable group has had one vaccination. And we haven’t.” Unable to get a home visit, she has reluctantly accepted an appointment to go to her GP but says the stress has been overwhelming. “I’m having three or four panic attacks a day now.”
An NHS spokesperson said: “Everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable, including housebound patients, was offered a vaccine by the middle of February, and more than nine in 10 of people in this cohort have received a jab, so it is simply wrong to suggest that there are these widespread problems.
“Where people are yet to be vaccinated, mobile units and local GPs are continuing to work together to offer the vaccine to those who are housebound and who have not yet been vaccinated.”
Some names have been changed