National Care Forum comment on vaccination in care homes
“We are delighted to have the vaccine assured, it’s also good news that more are on the way. However, it is disappointing to have ended up in a situation where the people who are top of the list for vaccination are not able to get it immediately. Bottom line is that we need to get vaccines to the people who need it most, in care homes, as quickly as possible.
“The only viable solution for widescale vaccination of care home residents is to get vaccines over the threshold and have them delivered onsite in care homes. It is not tenable to suggest, or encourage very frail people to go to hospital, or even community based hubs. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic care providers have worked hard to limit the risk of virus transmission in order to keep people safe, it is not sensible to change that now during what still is a national pandemic.
“Now is the time for the NHS to work very closely with GPs and pharmacies and care homes to help mobilise a local vaccination service – we know that taking the vaccine to the people who need it the most is the most effective way to boost uptake rates and protect our care home communities.
“It seems that the Scottish government have come to a different conclusion, and in fact intend to honour the prioritisation outlined by the JCVI and deliver the vaccine directly to Scottish care homes. It is not at all clear at this moment why the English government are not pursuing this path. However, if it turns out that all avenues have been exhausted, and that there is no way for the Pfizer vaccine to be administered within care homes, then we need some urgent guarantees that the alternative vaccines will meet the criteria to be delivered on site and in care homes. The timescale for assurance of the alternative vaccines must be clearly laid out. It’s all very well to ask care homes to be ‘patient’, but having outlined just how life changing this could be, the patience of residents, relatives and providers shouldn’t be expected to stretch too far.
“Care home staff are also at the top of the priority list for getting vaccinated and of course a great way to strengthen the protection of residents is to vaccinate care staff. The practicalities of staff having to travel to sites for vaccination raises a raft of problems around travel, payment of staff while being vaccinated, distance of homes from sites and booking into sites. As we know, the existing allocation from the Infection Control Fund is already stretched to the limit in its commitments and so funding will need to be made available to make sure care homes are supported to making this a reality.
“Our understanding is that people who work in care are positive about this, and want the vaccine. But information is key, and communicating in a positive and empowering way with those who are going to do this first will be vital. It is not mandatory, but it is our responsibility to ensure that people have all the facts to make an informed decision.”