COVID vaccinations for Redbridge rough sleepers yet to begin

Around seven out of 10 Redbridge residents in their 80s have now received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

However, it appears that vaccines for rough sleepers, promised by the council on January 13, have yet to begin.

At a full council meeting on January 21, cabinet member for health Cllr Mark Santos (Lab, Hainault) said more than 18,000 doses had been given so far.

He added that the borough’s vaccination scheme is also “on track to have people in care homes done by the end of January or, if not, the first week of February”.

Asked about rough sleepers, he said: “We have already started work on fast-track testing for rough sleepers, identifying those most vulnerable, who should be first for vaccination.”

On January 13, the council announced rapid-result COVID tests would be available at the Ryedale Care Centre in Ilford for the borough’s rough sleepers.

It was also stated that spare vaccine slots at Ilford Town Hall, Hawkey Hall and Fullwell Medical Centre would be available for those sleeping rough.

Speaking at the time, Cllr Athwal said: “Redbridge will, this week, become one of the first councils in the country to roll out a targeted test and vaccination programme for local rough sleepers.”

A spokesperson for Redbridge NHS said on January 20 that doctors had been given “a back-up list” of people to call on if a vaccine is going spare.

Only a few days before, it had cracked down on doctors asking elderly residents to email them directly to claim spare doses, saying the offer was “in good faith, but not NHS approved”.

The spokesperson explained the back-up list is drawn from priority groups decided by the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which does not specifically mention rough sleepers.

Redbridge Council was asked on January 18 how many rough sleepers it has managed to vaccinate since the announcement and has yet to respond.

Residents are reminded by the NHS to wait to be contacted about their vaccine rather than reaching out for information.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter