A vaccination support programme to contact Bedford borough residents who haven’t had a Covid jab discovered housebound residents who had slipped through the net.
Dr Fatumo Abdillahi, from the Public Health – Covid-19 Acute Response Team, gave a verbal update of the vaccination support programme to the Local Outbreak Engagement Board (Thursday, December 9)
This was put in place in August to encourage non-vaccinated residents to get their jabs.
Dr Abdillahi said: “In August, we noted that there were 120,000 adults that were registered with GPs across all three local authorities (Bedford, Central Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes) that had not had a single dose of a Covid vaccine.
“So we decided to use our experienced call handlers to make individual calls to these individuals to encourage them, to give some information, to see if there are any issues around their accessing the vaccination.
“So that we could at least get that first dose into as many people as we possibly could,” she said.
The committee was told that the team had the capacity to make around 3,000 calls a week.
“We use the National Vaccination Booking System on the call, so if a person agrees and accepts to have the vaccination our call handler can then go ahead, with their permission, and book them in for a vaccination there and then,” she said.
The programme was not set up to convince or cajole people into getting vaccinated, but to find out why they weren’t coming forward and to provide the information they needed to perhaps encourage them to get jabbed.
Dr Abdillahi told the committee that the calls found people who were housebound and said that they could not physically attend a vaccination centre, and didn’t have a GP visit them when they were offering vaccinations at home.
Councillor Graeme Coombes (Conservative, Wilshamstead Ward) said: “It was my understanding that there was a programme that GPs were looking at for housebound people.
“I’m concerned to hear that there were people who were housebound and hadn’t hadn’t got the vaccine purely because of access issues, and I wonder if you could explain why they may not have been picked up,” he asked.
Mayor Dave Hodgson said that if a housebound patient wasn’t registered as such by their GP, then the surgery wouldn’t know to make an appointment.
“I suspect this [programme] may have picked some of that latent misrecording or unrecording of people,” he said.
Dr Fatumo added: “That’s exactly right, if they were not registered on the system they wouldn’t have been identified.
“That was a really important point and still stands today. Also, there is a group of people that may have changed their minds.
“Not everybody wanted to have the vaccination early on and there was a window of time when GPs were going into the homes to do that.”
Councillor Louise Jackson (Labour, Harpur Ward) said: “I think there are a variety of complications with vaccinating people who are housebound.
“There’s obviously the issue of whether or not they were identified as housebound, they may have become recently housebound, they might not have been.
“The GP might not necessarily either recorded it or known that these problems have started to arise,” she added
“It was very difficult, I remember in the last round, for any definite time to be given. Because when you turn up to vaccinate somebody in their home you can find all sorts of other problems as well.
“So it might not be possible for the vaccinators to move on very quickly to the next person.
“But I don’t think there’s a very easy way around that,” she added.
Councillor Jackson said that when vaccination issues such as this one were passed onto the CCG, it responded very quickly.
Councillor Sue Oliver (Labour, Kempston North Ward) agreed: “I can certainly confirm that I had a housebound case and the CCG was extremely prompt and helpful in in sorting that out.
“So that safety net is there, which is a good thing,” she said.
Mayor Hodgson said: “I think this is a piece of work we may wish to do with the CCG about how to make sure people that are housebound are registered as housebound by their GP.”
by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter with additional reporting by Erica Roffe