Reaching out to people in priority groups who have yet to have their COVID vaccine

People in the priority groups for the COVID-19 vaccine who have yet to respond to their invitation for a first dose are to be the focus of a new scheme set up by Oxfordshire councils, the NHS and GPs.

The service is launching this week to help support those people if they want to have the jab. There are a range of reasons why people may have not arranged a vaccination - from difficulties in booking an appointment or arranging transport, to hesitancy or misunderstandings about the vaccine.

Outreach workers from the community hub teams of the city and district councils across the county will be visiting residents who have not had a COVID-19 vaccine and offering them support to get an appointment if they want one. The outreach workers are from experienced teams which have been visiting residents who are shielding or self-isolating throughout the pandemic. They will be dressed in clearly identifiable clothing, carry an ID, and follow all social distancing guidelines. Residents will be visited by teams from their local council.

Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Public Health, said: “It has been hugely encouraging to see such large numbers of people being vaccinated locally and nationally – hundreds of thousands of people are being vaccinated each day. However, we must make sure that everybody is given every opportunity to have this hugely important protective jab. That is what this new scheme is about. It will add real value to the vaccination programme in Oxfordshire.”

Dr Kiren Collison, GP and Clinical Chair at Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “GP practices are working closely with the outreach workers to make sure that people who are eligible for a vaccine, but haven’t had one, are given the help they need. They might be unable to book an appointment or need more information and these teams can help with this.” 

People are also still being urged not to contact their GP practice directly with enquiries about the COVID-19 vaccine. GP practices are getting a high number of calls from patients asking about the COVID-19 vaccine. This means that people who need to contact their GP because they are unwell are not able to get through.

Everyone will be vaccinated in due course; the purpose of priority order is to make sure those most at risk of dying from COVID-19 or becoming very unwell from the virus are protected first.

You will be contacted by your GP when it is your turn to be vaccinated; alternatively if you are eligible you can book an appointment via the national booking system.

Councillor Lawrie Stratford, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Adult Social Care and Public Health, said: “We want this outreach programme to be a valuable means of ensuring that everyone who wants the vaccine is supported to get it and that nobody gets left behind in the rollout of Oxfordshire’s vaccination programme as it moves through the different priority groups.”

Councillor Andrew McHugh, lead member for health and wellbeing at Cherwell District Council, said: “There is a big push across the country to reach out to the small numbers of people in priority groups who have yet to receive their COVID-19 vaccine. This is the local part of that campaign and we encourage people in Cherwell and Oxfordshire as a whole to come forward to protect themselves and the wider community.”

Councillor Louise Upton, Oxford City Council’s Cabinet Member for a Safer, Healthy Oxford, said: “We want to make sure as many people as possible have the protection of the vaccine, especially in the most vulnerable groups. A chat with one of our experienced team could make the difference to someone needing help or reassurance, better than a phone call or letter. I want residents to be reassured this isn’t to pressure them into a decision, our aim is to make sure people aren’t left out because they have worries or practical problems that we can help resolve. As restrictions ease, having the vaccine will be one of the best ways to ensure you can safely enjoy getting back to those things you’ve missed.”

Councillor Sue Cooper, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “It’s really important to us that we can help everyone get access to the vaccine. There are different reasons our residents might not have responded to their invitation and we want to do everything we can to help them make an appointment and then get to it, or to reassure them about the process.”

Councillor Emily Smith, Leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “Take up of the COVID vaccination has been very high, but there are some people who need help or further information before taking up their invitation to get their jab. We’re happy to be providing some of our district council staff as friendly faces to help people in the priority cohorts to make their appointments and do their bit to protect their families, neighbours and communities.”

Councillor Suzi Coul, Cabinet Member for Health and Leisure at West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “I would strongly encourage everyone to have the vaccine as it not only protects you but those around you who may not have had the opportunity to be vaccinated yet. Please listen to the council staff who will be paying you a visit and I am sure they will be able to answer any concerns you may have and help overcome issues surrounding home vaccination or transport.”