Leeds Covid vaccination centre focus on older people's needs boosts effort to get jabs to 'everyone most at risk'

Setting up Covid vaccination centres with older people's needs in mind has helped Leeds teams to deliver first doses of potentially life-saving vaccines to more than 158,000 over 60s to date.

Monday, 29th March 2021, 4:45 pm

The work included a focus on removing barriers to accessibility, ensuring information was clear and available in different formats, and providing additional practical support.

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Earlier this month, a new vaccination centre was also opened in Harehills in an effort to improve uptake among older people in Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) groups.

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Lucy Jackson, a public health consultant at Leeds City Council. Picture: Simon Hulme

Lucy Jackson, a public health consultant at Leeds City Council, said that the Primary Care Network serving Harehills and neighbouring communities had set up its vaccination centre in East End Park but it became clear some older residents were reluctant or unable to go there.

A second site was then opened at the Bilal Centre on March 10, with information sessions running in the morning for those who might have questions or concerns about getting vaccinated.

Ms Jackson said: "Just moving it and having open information sessions, there were 149 people one afternoon who hadn’t had a jab.

"Some of the people who came on that afternoon really couldn’t walk far at all. There were also people who came down, went back and then got the rest of their family to come down.

"If you have reassured people and you take it to people, they often come. We need to have different options because it’s such a big proportion of the population that need vaccinating. We’ve got to have lots of different ways for people accessing it.

"Now we are starting to open up, as each of our roadmap steps starts happening, we really do want everyone who’s most at risk to have been vaccinated."

More easy-to-access information on the vaccine programme and its progress is among the requests being made through our A Shot In The Arm campaign.

Led by the Yorkshire Evening Post and sister titles across JPIMedia, it also asks for further reassurance for local communities and urges Prime Minister Boris Johnson to deploy the country’s network of 11,000 pharmacies to ensure that every citizen is only a short walk away from a vaccination centre.

A guide produced by the Age Friendly Leeds initiative set out suggestions for how to manage vaccination sites with older people in mind.

Ideas shared include providing seating for use at times when there are long queues, making sure there are handrails beside any steps or stairs, checking hearing loop access is clearly signposted and having marshals available at the entrance to greet people who have sight loss or dementia.

Equipment has also been provided to help those who might struggle to walk longer distances, while funding was provided to help overcome transport issues.

"When we started the vaccinations, we got wheelchairs so the Primary Care Networks had them if somebody couldn’t stand up and there was a queue," Ms Jackson said.

"We gave them some funding to pay for a taxi if somebody said they didn’t know how they can get there."

The city's network of charities and community groups also received funding to use their minibuses to help ferry older people to and from appointments.

Ms Jackson said: "It’s the practical things but also making it an environment that’s okay for older people. It’s recognising that if you’ve been told to shield for a year, you’ve suddenly been asked to come out and go into a doctors, a place with lots of people.

"It was very difficult at the beginning, we had that stop and start, there were lots of issues about vaccines coming in. There was the issue of ringing people up and saying ‘can you come in tomorrow?’

"We had a couple of days of really snowy weather. I had people ringing up saying ‘I’ve got older people left here, they can’t get back, what do we do?’. That’s when we called on the older people’s networks and asked if they could help."

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