COVID-19: Wales to prioritise homeless for jabs during coronavirus vaccine rollout

·2-min read

Homeless people in Wales will be prioritised for a coronavirus vaccine as they are more likely to have an underlying health problem, the Welsh government has said.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said this includes rough sleepers, those in emergency accommodation, and people who were recently homeless and are now in supported accommodation.

Mr Gething, who was speaking during a Welsh government coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, said those people will now be part of priority group six in the country's vaccine roll-out.

The Welsh government has already begun vaccinating people in this priority group - which also includes people aged between 16 and 64 with underlying health conditions.

Homeless people are now classed as being at increased risk from coronavirus in Wales because they are more likely to have an underlying health problem.

People with experience of homelessness have a lower than average non-COVID related life expectancy, with mortality at around 31 to 38 years sooner than the general population, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data.

People in Wales are currently offered a vaccine after being identified and through their GP or health records.

However, many homeless people may not be registered with health or local services.

Local authorities, third sector and housing organisations, as well as homelessness support teams, will be key to Wales' approach by taking the vaccine to where people are, rather than expecting them to visit services.

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Mr Gething said: "It is as shocking as it is saddening that those who are homeless are much more likely to have a physical or mental health conditions which put them at a higher risk from the harms of COVID-19.

"A fundamental principle of our vaccination programme is that no one will be left behind and as part of this commitment, we are already working to ensure it is as easy as possible for every eligible adult in Wales to have a coronavirus vaccine if they want one."

The development in Wales comes as Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she has she has been "pleasantly surprised" by the vaccine uptake and the low levels of vaccine hesitancy in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon, who was taking questions from MSPs on her government's route-map out of lockdown, said it has been key to have the vaccine delivered by a "trusted voice".