Globe, Migrants, Multiculture, United Kingdom

Covid-19: Immigrants and vaccine access

After a year of pandemic uncertainty, the vaccine is now a tangible solution that gives many people peace of mind. In the United Kingdom people have already started to be vaccinated, but concerns are being raised in both the native and immigrant communities.

 

Carla Torres y Dolores Modern*

 

In recent months, social media has given rise to all kinds of theories and false information that for many people sometimes have more credibility than expert opinion.

It can sometimes be difficult for migrants to access accurate, up-to-date and reliable information in their own language, making it harder for them to figure out what information they need to pay attention to.

For this reason, the Coalition of Latin Americans in the UK (CLAUK), is carrying out a campaign on social media, to amplify the voices of experts and make sure relevant information about the crisis we are going through reaches the community.

That is why the Coalition of Latin Americans in the UK  (CLAUK) is carrying out a social media campaign to amplify the voices of experts and bring relevant information to the community about the crisis we are going through.

This campaign seeks, among other things, to answer migrants’ questions and concerns, such as the following.

Is the vaccine safe?

The NHS has stated that: “The vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Any coronavirus vaccine that is approved must go through all the clinical trials and safety checks all other licensed medicines go through. The MHRA follows international standards of safety. Other vaccines are being developed. They will only be available on the NHS once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective. So far, thousands of people have been given a Covid-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. No long-term complications have been reported.”

   Are there any side effects of Covid-19 vaccine?

The vaccine might give you mild side effects such as: mild pain in the arm where the needle went in, feeling tired, headache, body aches and nausea.

These should not last more than a week and painkillers can be taken if necessary.

The NHS health staff should be informed of any allergies you may have before vaccination, especially if you have had allergic reactions to another vaccine.

Who will get the vaccine?

The government has already started vaccinating nursing home residents and staff; healthcare and social workers; people aged 80 years and over; and in some places people aged 70 years and over and clinically vulnerable people.

As these groups are covered, more will be invited to receive the vaccine. By the end of spring, the government plans to have vaccinated all people aged 50 and over.

If an immigrant works in a hospital as a cleaner or as a porter, does he or she have access to the vaccine?

Yes, health care staff are now being vaccinated and this includes staff such as cleaners, caretakers and porters. If you have not been offered the vaccine, ask your supervisor or manager.

Should I call my GP to arrange a vaccination? 

No. GPs are facing a large number of phone calls about the vaccine and are asking patients to wait to be contacted. If you are registered with a medical practice, they or a hospital will contact you once it is your turn and vaccinations are available.

What to do if you don’t speak English?

You have the right to ask for an interpreter when you go to your GP. If you do not know how to ask for one, you can google “Google translator”, write in your language that you need an interpreter and show the translation to the receptionist. The receptionist should arrange this for you.

Can an undocumented immigrant receive the vaccine?

Yes, all people are entitled to free primary health care, including undocumented immigrants. This includes testing and treatment for Covid-19 and the vaccine.

If you are not registered with a GP, the practice will not contact you when it is your turn to receive the vaccine. If you are eligible, you can go to a GP and explain that you are not registered, but would like to access the vaccine.

However, it is recommended that you register with your GP as this will enable you to access primary health care, free of charge.

How to register with a GP surgery?

Regardless of their immigration status, immigrants have the right to register with a GP and access the health care system.

Medical practices are in charge of inviting eligible patients to get vaccinated. That is why it is more important than ever to register with a GP. That way, when it’s your turn, you can receive an invitation to be vaccinated.

To register with a GP doctor you need to visit the NHS website. Once there, you must enter your postcode in the search engine.

This will take you to a list of GP practices in your area.

You can choose any one of them and go to their website and look for the option “Register with us”. Due to the pandemic, some practices allow you to register online.

This means that you can complete the form online and be contacted by the practice later.

If this is not possible, you should ask the practice for a registration form, fill it in and bring it with you in person, along with any identification documents. Some medical practices may require you to bring utility bills or bank statements to prove your address.

But remember that, according to the NHS, this is not compulsory. Again, due to the pandemic, you may be asked to leave this information in a box at the door of the practice.

You have the right to ask for an interpreter. If you do not speak English, you can download English flashcards from the CLAUK website and show them to the practice staff.

If you have problems registering, you can contact one of the CLAUK organizations or contact Doctors Of The World  on 0207 167 5789, Monday to Friday, between 9:30 am and 6:00 pm).

*Carla Torres: Advocacy and Campaigns Coordinator. Coalition of Latin Americans in the UK

*Dolores Modern: Policy and Communications Coordinator on Employment Rights. Latin American Women’s Rights Service (Lawrs)

(Photos: Pixabay)

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