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TravelGuides – ‘We’ve been failed’: five vulnerable people on their booster jab wait | Vaccines and immunisation

TravelGuides – ‘We’ve been failed’: five vulnerable people on their booster jab wait | Vaccines and immunisation

The UK has announced it is to accelerate its booster programme in order to increase protection against Covid amid concern over the Omicron variant.

The government accepted advice from the vaccines watchdog, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), to cut the gap between the second dose of the vaccine and the booster from six to three months and for it to be made available to younger age groups more quickly.

But some vulnerable housebound British residents say they are struggling to get a booster jab at home. More than 40 people who responded to a Guardian callout say they or a relative have encountered difficulties with either being invited for their booster or getting someone to administer the jab in their home. Five of those people talk about their experiences of waiting to be vaccinated.

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‘I’m feeling very vulnerable’

Anne*, a 69-year-old in Carmarthenshire, Wales, has been waiting to receive a booster jab since she became eligible in early November. As she is housebound, her GP administered her first two AstraZeneca vaccine doses at home. “I got a letter through the post last week to go to the vaccine centre in Carmarthen [two days later],” she says. “The problem is I’m a double amputee. I have a wheelchair-accessible vehicle but I need someone to put me in and drive me. I would also need to give my carers more notice so two of them can come in before the appointment,” she says, explaining she needs two people to lift her and help her wash and dress.

As she wasn’t able to attend the appointment, she tried calling the number on the letter. “I tried 10 times that day and six the next to tell them I couldn’t go,” she says. Anne worries that she might have to wait a while to get vaccinated. “Cases are going up and I’m feeling very vulnerable – I don’t feel there’s anything I can do.”

‘The rollout is obviously affecting quite a few people’

Patricia from West Sussex.

In West Sussex, Patricia, who is 97, registered blind and housebound, is still waiting for both her flu jab and booster. Her 62-year-old daughter Anne who works as a nurse says: “I phoned her GP about a week ago to make sure she was still on the list to be seen, but the surgery doesn’t have any other information on when she might get the jab.

“It was when I heard on the news that nearly all over-80s had received their booster that I got a bit worried,” says Anne. “The rollout is obviously affecting quite a few people.”

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Anne says her mum is quite safe as she doesn’t go out much and everyone in the family has had their boosters. “It would just be nice to be told when they might come in so I can check on her that day.”

Later the same day she received an automatic text message inviting her mum to book a booster. Anne is so concerned that she has given up waiting and is prepared to try to take her mum to be jabbed at her GP surgery. “I thought I should just get her booked in instead of waiting for someone to come to her,” she says. “I followed the link to book online at her surgery, as this is the nearest place and easy to get a wheelchair in, but I was unable to book because there was no availability! I’ll just have to try again.”

‘I’m worried about missing Christmas with family’

Hannah*, 23, hasn’t been visited to be given a booster jab, despite being clinically vulnerable. The 23-year-old, who lives in Greater Manchester and has myalgic encephalomyelitis (also known as chronic fatigue syndrome) alongside other conditions, is registered housebound with her GP surgery. “I was just about well enough to get to my GP surgery down the road for my initial vaccinations,” she says. But she adds that the 10-minute journey caused a “major flare” of her conditions. “Now my condition has declined further and I wouldn’t be able to do that.”

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Hannah says her GP surgery has been unable to clarify when housebound patients will be vaccinated. She is worried about becoming ill because her domiciliary carers are not jabbed. “There seems to be an assumption that housebound people don’t have access to the outside world when in reality, we rely on others for care and basic necessities,” she says, adding that her partner works in education and is teaching in person.

Unless she is vaccinated in time for Christmas, Hannah says she will not feel safe spending it with her family. “When you are limited to your house so much, these things are like a light at the end of the tunnel,” she says. “Just because I am disabled and vulnerable doesn’t mean my life is expendable.”

‘We are going to be victims of the huge winter surge’

Roy, 76, had two vaccine doses and his flu jab administered by a nurse who visited him at his home in the east Midlands, as he is registered housebound. While he has received texts encouraging him to book his vaccination at a local centre, Roy, who cannot get in or out of a car, has not been told whether he will be given his booster at home. “The nurse who came with the flu jab had over 60 people to get round so I am not the only one in limbo in this area,” he says.

When he last spoke to his GP surgery, he was advised that they did not have the recommended Pfizer vaccine in stock. Although his wife, who cares for him, is triple-vaccinated, Roy worries about the high local infection rates. “I’m anxious that we are simply going to be ignored and, having done everything right so far, are going to be be victims of the inevitable huge surge in infections this winter.”

‘We’ve been failed by the government’

For Lynda in west Dorset, who lives with and cares for her 98-year-old mum, Emily, getting a booster has been very difficult. She says her local GP surgery is not arranging visits for the jab and that district nurses will be going out in November to offer them to housebound patients. “I can’t leave the house because someone might call to give mum her jab,” said Lynda. “She has severe dementia so I need to be with her.”

Lynda hopes her mum will get the booster by the end of the month but thinks there is little access to the vaccine in Dorset generally. “In a rural area like this self-help is how we get by, and what we’re going through at the moment just emphasises how much self-help we’ve had to gather during Covid and we’re still not out of it.

“We don’t feel it is the fault of our GP surgery or the district nurses, who have been under terrible pressure, but the total shambles of the government rollout – it’s non-existent. The government doesn’t seem to have its finger on the pulse about how to get jabs to rural areas. We’ve been failed.”

One of her main concerns is that a family Christmas won’t take place if her mum doesn’t receive her booster in time. “My daughter worked on Christmas day last year and hasn’t been inside the house since March 2020 because mum’s very vulnerable, but we’re hoping she’ll be here this year.

“If mum hasn’t been ‘boostered’ it’s going to be very difficult. She can’t go outside as it’s too cold, and can just about get to the window in her bedroom to wave at my daughter in the garden when she does visit. There seems to be a big gap as to what the reality is and what the government perceives is going on across the country.”

* Names have been changed.

TravelGuides – ‘We’ve been failed’: five vulnerable people on their booster jab wait | Vaccines and immunisation

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