Over 600 appointments are being offered each day at the local Bocking and John Scott vaccination sites

Local health bosses are working with community organisations and GPs to help undocumented migrants feel safe to come forward for a vaccine.

Hackney’s clinical commissioning group (CCG) will be working with groups including Hackney Migrant Centre (HMC) and Akwaaba in response to growing concerns over people reluctant to give their details for a Covid jab for fear of a Home Office referral.

Representatives of City & Hackney CCG were answering questions from HMC chair Rayah Feldman on targeted pop-ups for “marginalised communities”, including people not registered with GPs such as undocumented migrants or those who are destitute or homeless.

Planned care workstream director Siobhan Harper said: “We definitely want to do a bit of work around supporting that community to register with primary care.

“We have had preliminary discussions about that amongst GPs, on the importance of not putting a burden on people to produce documentation and encouraging people to come forward and register. That is on our to-do list.

“We want to get that message out there that the vaccine is free. It does not cost anything so that is also a really important message, and we will be working with communities and organisations like Akwaaba and Hackney Migrant Centre as we go forward.”

Attendees were in agreement on the need for vaccine pop-ups to coincide with charities’ activities such as Akwaaba’s cooked meal provided for destitute migrants every Sunday.

Feldman pointed out that vaccinating volunteers as well as service users at the same time could reduce vaccine hesitancy, with the jab administered “in the context of people they trust and know”.

City & Hackney GP Confederation CEO Laura Sharpe said: “I had a meeting with the Migrant Centre yesterday, and we are vaccinating all of the staff yesterday and today.

“We are offering it to their volunteers, and I would be very happy to create a special slot either for volunteers to bring migrants to the centre if they are unclear about coming on their own so we can support them and agree some key messages on how the centres are not interested in anybody’s status or anything.

“We are just interested in giving them the vaccine. We will work as closely as possible as we can with the Migrant Centre.”

Councillors in recent weeks have been raising concerns over the barriers facing people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) seeking support during the pandemic, including access to the vaccine as well as emergency food.

The continued imposition of the hostile environment NRPF measure by the government has been challenged by the Town Hall, which set aside £100,000 to support residents unable to access the welfare system as a result of their immigration status in June, calling on Westminster to scrap the condition.

Cllr Ben Hayhurst said at a recent health meeting: “There are a cohort of people, undocumented migrants, who are fearful of Home Office referrals, fearful of giving their details, and need access to food, they need access to a Covid vaccine without having to register to a GP.

“It really is trying to work out a strategy that Monday to Sunday there is somewhere where that cohort of people know where they can go to access food.”

The news on further joint working between the health system and migrants’ rights charities comes against the background of a “big push” to improve vaccine uptake in the borough in recent weeks, according to Harper.

Of the clinically extremely vulnerable people in the top four priority groups for receipt of a jab, 69 per cent of that cohort are now vaccinated, a 10 per cent increase on last week.

Of those aged 65 and over, 72 per cent have now received their first dose, along with 45 per cent of people aged 16 to 65 years in an at-risk group.

In total, the top six priority cohorts in City & Hackney represent around 66,000 people, with 640 appointments a day being offered at the Bocking and John Scott vaccination sites.

Targeted work within those groups is now also being done for people with serious mental illnesses or learning disabilities, of whom around half in the area have come forward to get their shot.

Harper added: “If we were to achieve 90 per cent coverage across all the populations, there would still be quite a few people left to vaccinate.

“So we are sited on going back round again, and that’s where the linking with concerns that people have, sharing the information, having dialogue, looking at other ways of creating confidence.

“Our ask to influencers is that they are key in helping us to get the word out that it is safe, it is free, and it is going to protect you and other people.”

You can find more information on the coronavirus vaccination roll-out in Hackney here

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