World’s first vaccinations of homeless takes place in Oldham

Date published: 14 January 2021

Oldham has launched the world's first Covid-19 vaccination programme for the homeless.

Lee Ullha, 46, from Oldham became the first homeless person to receive the Covid-19 Oxford vaccine at the DePaul charity on Shaw Road.

Lee was evicted from his property and spent time living in a tent in a disused building on Werneth Park, before being helped by the DePaul charity in Oldham.

“I am happy to have received the vaccine and had no idea I was the first homeless person to get it done” said Lee.

His partner Kelly Heney, 38, added: “I woke up with a spring in my step knowing I was going to receive the vaccine.”

Dr Salim Mohammad, from the Royton Medical Centre was one of two GPs delivering the vaccine. He said: “My key message is that we need to vaccinate as many people as possible – the elderly and any other vulnerable group. As long as the vaccine keeps coming, we will continue to vaccinate people.”

Government guidelines on the rollout of the vaccine had left those with no fixed address sixth or even lower on the list of priority groups,

Dr Zahid Chauhan OBE Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care for Oldham Council, ensured that vulnerable rough sleepers would receive the jab in his area – regardless of their age.

"It makes sense to look after vulnerable people. A small vaccine can save lives. We must not give up on homeless people but instead pull together and do what we can. These are decent human British values and once again Oldham has been a leader in healthcare and an example for others to follow."

"The idea that those with greatest need are being left for weeks without protection against a virulent infection is frankly horrifying."

The average life expectancy of a homeless person is just 47 years.

Dr Chauhan launched his own charity - Homeless Friendly -  which initially encouraged surgeries to work harder to care for those of no fixed abode. That began with getting them to treat homeless people, previously refused medical care at practices because they did not have a permanent address.

Since its inception, Homeless-Friendly has encouraged hospitals, hospices, out-of-hours health organisations, charities, local authorities, and businesses to examine their policies and procedures and ensure that they cater for those without a home.

Dr Chauhan says there is much more to be done to help those who have no permanent place to live: “There are far too many people living in damp and unhealthy temporary accommodation making them very vulnerable to breathing conditions".

"Others struggling with the economic squeeze of the lockdown are experiencing anxiousness and depression about paying the mortgage. This is before they have even reached the streets where they can expect to be prone to hypothermia, malnutrition, drug addiction, falls, heart failure and of course deadly viruses.

Jim McMahon OBE, MP for Oldham West and Royton told the Chronicle: “We cannot forget that too often the homeless are being denied the health and care that they need, with many falling through the gap. A programme to roll out the vaccine to the homeless is vital and great to see here in Greater Manchester.”

Mike Barker, strategic director of health and resources for Oldham Council said: “It is absolutely critical that we seek to protect as many lives as quickly as we can from this virus.

“Oldham more than most areas has significant challenges and inequalities. That is why I am especially proud of our local GPs and councillors including Dr Chauhan for wanting to ensure all of our clinically extremely vulnerable people have access to the vaccination.”

The Authority has also announced that keyworkers in the borough can now access regular rapid-result Covid tests.

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