"We are working to reach out to people who may be off the radar - yet because they move around a lot could be at high risk of spreading or catching infection."
Naseem Talukdar, a charity worker
The homeless, undocumented migrants and people from ethnic minority groups are being urged to have the COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves and their communities.
Deaths among homeless people increased by over a third last year and those from Black and Asian backgrounds are at greater risk of dying if they contract the virus.
And almost half of migrants surveyed said they would be scared to access healthcare if they got sick during this pandemic.
Charity worker Naseem Talukdar has been volunteering at the Easton Community Centre to encourage people who are ‘off the radar’ to come forward.
Off the radar
He said: “We are working to reach out to people who may be off the radar - yet because they move around a lot could be at high risk of spreading or catching infection.”
People from black and Asian groups are more likely to die of COVID and tend to be more exposed to the virus through customer-facing jobs.
Those of Bangladeshi heritage are twice as likely to die of COVID and Naseem, who is a keyworker whose own parents migrated from Bangladesh in the 1960s, has had his vaccine – and is encouraging others to do the same.
Naseem, who was involved with Feed the Homeless and has organised food deliveries to people sleeping rough during the pandemic, is using his connections to spread the word.
Naseem, who is also the director for social responsibility and sustainability for campaign group UK Curry Connect, which was set up to raise awareness of skills shortages in the Asian catering industry, said: “We want to help vulnerable people, who also may have underlying medical issues.”
Dr Caroline Crentsil is a GP at The Orchard Medical Centre and Lead GP at the Haven, a primary care service for asylum seekers and refugees.
She said: “Undocumented migrants are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 infection due to their living and working conditions.
“But they are more likely to experience barriers to accessing healthcare, which can lead to undiagnosed and untreated conditions.
“Many are also from ethnic minorities. This combination of factors can put them at greater risk of serious illness and even death should they catch COVID-19.”
Fear and misinformation
Migrants can register with their local GP and access free NHS primary healthcare without documentation.
Dr Crentsil said: “Primary care is free for all and the Home Office cannot access GP healthcare records except in very rare circumstances, such as in relation to a serious crime.”
She is also reassuring people they will be individually assessed and have an opportunity to discuss any risks before they have the vaccination. There are also many translated sources of reliable information available.
She said: “There is some fear and suspicion around the COVID-19 vaccines, which is in part due to incorrect information. On the whole, the evidence shows us that the risks of catching COVID-19 outweigh the risks of the vaccines.”
- If anyone has difficulty registering with a GP, they can contact support groups such as Red Cross, Bristol Refugee Rights, Doctors of the World.