Doctors of the World launches project to improve access to COVID-19 vaccines

Published 4th February 2021

Doctors of the World UK (DOTW) has launched a project to ensure that everyone in the UK has access to COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of immigration status.

As well as producing translated COVID-19 information resources, DOTW will play a proactive advocacy and coordination role in the roll-out of the UK’s vaccination programme, under its new COVID-19 Vaccine Advocacy Project.

It is essential that everyone living in the UK is included in this programme, regardless of immigration status, both from a public health perspective and a moral one. But some communities face being missed in the roll-out.

At the sharp end of the pandemic

Migrants, refugees, people experiencing homelessness, sex workers, and Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities in the UK have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

These communities are at increased risk of contracting the virus, experience worse health outcomes, and face more barriers to healthcare services than the general population, as highlighted in various reports, including DOTW’s COVID-19 Rapid Needs Assessment.

However, the UK Government’s efforts to include these communities in public health measures and social safety nets have been woefully inadequate.

Tackling barriers to GP registration

As the roll-out of vaccines will be predominately via primary care, it is essential that everyone living in the UK is registered with a GP.

However, there are well-documented issues with GP registration for people subject to immigration control and other marginalised populations and the pandemic has only created additional challenges.

Fear of charging and data sharing, lack of trust in statutory agencies, and a glaring absence of translated information are all issues that are repeatedly raised by patients and the charities and services that support them.

We are pleased there will now be a renewed push by NHS England to get everyone registered with a GP through new resources for both patients and practices. But the issue is complex and the communities we work with are often hard to reach.

DOTW is particularly concerned that those with underlying vulnerabilities, which should make them eligible for early phases of the vaccine, will be missed.

Ensuring equal vaccine access

Over the next 12 months, DOTW will work with excluded populations and the sector to influence the UK’s vaccination programme and ensure equal access to vaccines.

This will be done by drawing on links with clinicians and migration and health organisations, and the experiences of patients accessing DOTW’s clinical services.

We will do this in three ways:

  1. Producing a regular briefing on how the vaccine is being rolled out in the UK and access challenges experienced by excluded populations. The briefing will include recommendations for change and propose workable solutions for service providers.
  2. Working with migrant communities and the sector to influence vaccine roll-out policy and plans.
  3. Producing translated COVID-19 information for migrant and other excluded communities. This will include public health materials around vaccination, as well as reinforcing messages about public health measures, test and trace, and access to healthcare.

If you’d like to receive an email whenever our translated resources and policy briefing are updated, please sign up using the link below:

For more information on vaccine entitlement and rollout in England, read DOTW’s latest COVID-19 Vaccine Policy Brief.

This briefing highlights the importance of access to COVID-19 vaccines to everyone in England.

If you’re a healthcare provider involved in vaccine delivery, see our advice on tailored outreach vaccination delivery services for socially excluded groups in the UK.

The briefing presents our recommendations for outreach vaccination service delivery.

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