Weekly Poll – COVID-19 Booster Vaccination

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 25 October 2021, we asked a question about the COVID-19 Booster Vaccination.

Results

Question. Are you satisfied with the rollout of the COVID-19 booster vaccine in Scotland so far? 

  • YES – 53% (38 respondents)
  • NO – 47% (34 respondents)

Comments

We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Priority Groups

Scotland’s coronavirus (COVID-19) booster vaccination programme began on 21 September 2021. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommends that the booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine is offered to:

  • Those living in residential care homes for older adults
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • All adults aged 50 years or over
  • Adults aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe coronavirus
  • Adult carers (aged 16 or over)
  • Household contacts (aged 16 or over) of immunosuppressed individuals

Whilst many respondents agreed with the priority groups, it was felt that the rollout of the booster vaccination should be quicker. The speed of the rollout was particularly concerning for people with underlying health conditions, including those who are immunosuppressed and have a reduced ability to fight infections and other diseases.

“I am still waiting for my booster. I am vulnerable and was told that I should have the booster when offered it, along with my flu jab. I was told I should also request pneumococcal jab, as I suffer with chest infections. This was a good doctor who was helping out at vaccination centre, well known to myself. I want to be urgently sorted.”

“The rollout is too slow, and they haven’t corrected the errors of the original vaccine program. Many disabled people have co-morbidities that are not being taken into account, in addition, it’s ridiculous that young carers are placed ahead of the people they are caring for.”

“I am well past the 6 month period for the booster, am over 50 and on the clinically vulnerable (shielding) list and have not received an appointment. Yet I know people under the 6 months period who are over 50 and have got the booster. This system makes no sense.”

“I agree with the groups, but not the rollout, as the 3 of us have not had any word about our booster, despite two of us being disabled and one our carer.”

“I agree with the priority grouping but I’ve not been invited for a booster even though I have many underlying medical conditions. I’m over 60, I’m also a carer to my wife who has dementia and is nearly 70 and she also has many underlying conditions.”

“With the coming winter surge, we need to prioritise those that are immunocompromised, elderly and disabled no matter their age. Everyone with diabetes and asthma no matter the severity should be allowed to access a booster. Especially those who are immunocompromised and battling cancers such as leukaemia that reduce your chance of creating antibodies.”

Communications

A number of respondents commented on the perceived lack of communications and clarity as to when they will receive their booster vaccination. In order to alleviate concerns, it was suggested that more information should be made available to the public regarding the timescales for vaccine booster rollout across Scotland.

“As someone with serious underlying medical conditions I have still to be offered the booster jab and I was unable to get through on the helpline to get an appointment.”

“I don’t feel that the communication for the booster has been as good as the first two doses. I understand that the initial vaccines are key, but the availability of booster vaccine sessions is quite restricted, and there are nowhere near the number of walk-in venues & sessions as there are in cities elsewhere in the country”

“I have not heard anything about my booster vaccination, even though I am in the primary group. I even had to contact my MSP to get my 2 vaccinations. I know a lot of my friends are in the same situation, no idea when we are going to get it. No communication from anybody.”

“We know they are very busy, but we are becoming concerned that we have not received any notification yet. Even a note to say that it is expected that we are to be offered sometime between X and Y would be helpful. Just now, with the increase of covid down south and the COP26 coming to Glasgow we are very concerned about how much it will spread and increase so we are getting to the stage where we are going into voluntary lockdown for our own protection. Thus, our desire for some information.”

“I have not received any letter, text message about receiving the booster. I am termed as being extremely clinically vulnerable and my second jab is now over 6 months and two weeks ago.”

“I was on the shielding list and got doses 1 and 2 fairly quickly, so I don’t know (and it’s not been communicated) if the booster goes down the age list irrespective on shielding.”

“Where I agree with the priority list, accurate communication is lacking as has been throughout the pandemic. We are told to contact our GP’s If no appointment but on contacting the GP I am abruptly told to wait to be informed of an appointment and they later send a text to all patients to tell them not to contact the surgery. I’m still at a loss to work out what GPs are doing and in the dark over the booster.”

Accessible Information

It is essential that vaccine booster communications are shared in a format that is accessible for the communication requirements for each individual. One respondent who is deaf received their booster appointment notification by telephone. It was also noted that there is a lack of information about the booster vaccination in Easy Read, a format that makes information more accessible because it uses simple, jargon-free language, shorter sentences and supporting images. At Disability Equality Scotland, we produce information in Easy Read to all sectors as part of our commitment towards improving access to information for all. More information about our Easy Read service can be found on our website: www.easyread.scot

“I am over 80 so I am definitely one of the priority groups. I received a letter asking me to telephone for an appointment but that is utterly useless because I don’t have a telephone due to being deaf. I can get online because we have a communal wi-fi system here so I can send and receive emails. It looks like deaf people are going to miss out just because they are deaf and because NHS Highland insists that booster appointments must be made by telephone only.”

“Where are the Easy Read versions for the booster vaccine? There are BSL and audio versions available but not Easy Read. These were produced for the first round of vaccines but even though there has been plenty of time to produce these documents for the booster I can’t find them on NHS Inform? How can I be expected to give consent to a booster if I don’t have the information available to understand what it entails? Just giving out information out on the day isn’t suitable for people with cognitive issues that makes processing information difficult and could affect uptake – if I received an appointment today, I would have to refuse as I don’t have the information, I need to make an informed decision.”

Venue Accessibility

Respondents who have received their booster vaccination commented on the accessibility of the vaccine venues. A portion of respondents praised the venue accessibility, which ranged from GP surgeries, local town halls and being vaccinated at home. There was also praise for the helpfulness and professionalism of vaccine centre staff.

“I’m in the 70 plus age group as is my wife. We got our letters as we approached the six month after our second jab. The instructions re venue, time, precautions etc were good. The process at Blairgowrie Town Hall was excellent and didn’t take very long. The nurse giving the jab took our details and explained everything very well. The hygiene procedures were very thorough.”

“I have received the booster and found it very easy to access the venue.”

“The venue where we had our boosters was easily accessible in travel as well as access. Staff onsite very attentive”

“Vaccines are being done in our local surgery. Very efficient.”

“Organisation of vaccination inside building extremely good and friendly with no time pressure.”

“My vaccinations took place in my home, and I have no issues.”

In contrast, some disabled people have encountered difficulties with accessing the vaccine venue due to the inaccessible nature of the building, surrounding infrastructure and public transport links.

“Venue allocated was in another local authority to me despite there being a vaccination centre located 10 mins away from my home. Efforts to change the venue online unsuccessful. I had to queue outside the venue for half an hour and then again once inside despite having a specific appointment time. Bit of a shambles compared to the original vaccination rollout.”

“One local pop-up site that I went to was a bus in a car park in the pouring rain and high wind which was not suitable for my wife as (1) she would be standing in heavy rain with high wind (2) she would have to try and climb the stairs of the bus to get the jag (not able to climb stairs easily) when I pointed this out to the staff on site I was told that they would give her the jag in the car park which would entail her removing her coat outside in the rain. Not an option I was willing to entertain. So, the hunt to get my wife the flu jab continues.”

“I preferred Citadel in Ayr although Mainholm Academy is close to bus routes. However, entry and parking a little confusing – could do with some signage.”

“Queues outside vaccination centres are lengthy and many elderly and disabled people are having to stand for approximately two hours in a queue.”

“Having enquired about the booster and being told by my local GP surgery that I have to get to Perth and then get into Dewars Rinks when the time comes to get my booster is problematic to say the least. When I put this to my local surgery, I was told it wasn’t their problem and I simply had to get to Dewers Rinks in Perth. We should not be given ultimatums like this, and I don’t believe that this sort of approach mixes with the public sector equality duty of the Equality Act 2010. I would like to see the EqIA (Equality impact assessment) that should have been carried out as a mandatory duty to ascertain if the procedures of the booster campaign we are meeting the needs of those with protected characteristics.”

Conclusion

There was a mixed response from disabled people regarding the rollout of the vaccine booster vaccination. Respondents agreed with the priority groups for receiving the vaccine, however there was consensus that the rollout to the priority groups should be quicker. This was particularly concerning for disabled people with underlying health conditions, who are getting increasingly worried in the lead up to winter. To alleviate concerns, it was suggested by respondents that there needs to be clearer information shared regarding the timescales for receiving the booster. Furthermore, communications need to be available in a format that matches the communication strengths and preferences of each individual, for example, by producing information in Easy Read. Disabled people who have received their vaccine shared varied accounts of the accessibility of venues and public transport links. It is vital that meaningful consultation takes place with local stakeholders, including Access Panels, to ensure that venues are accessible and inclusive for all.