Vulnerable housebound Glaswegians fear being “left behind” in booster rollout

Fears are mounting that vulnerable people who cannot leave their homes are being left out of the vaccine booster roll out.

 Charlene Johnstone, 34, with her son Hayden, 13, Picture: SWNS Charlene Johnstone, 34, with her son Hayden, 13, Picture: SWNS
Charlene Johnstone, 34, with her son Hayden, 13, Picture: SWNS

What’s happening? Health boards rather than GPs have been responsible for the booster rollout, which some GPs fear has made it harder for elderly and terminally ill patients to access jabs.

The distribution of vaccines such as the Pfizer jab which comes in a six-dose vial also poses logistical issues.

Terminally ill mum Charlene Johnstone, got her second jab during a home visit by her GP in May last year, and believes she would have died from Covid had she not been double vaccinated.

“A waste of doses”

She claims she was told travelling to Knightswood, Glasgow, to give her a booster at home would "be a waste of five doses", and said she didn't want to impose limitations on her 13-year-old son as he returned to school.

Ms Johnstone, who has to be tube-fed after developing gastroparesis during pregnancy which paralysed her stomach, lives with her mum who does the grocery shopping.

 Charlene Johnstone, 34, with her son Hayden, 13, Picture: SWNS Charlene Johnstone, 34, with her son Hayden, 13, Picture: SWNS
Charlene Johnstone, 34, with her son Hayden, 13, Picture: SWNS

She also suffered organ damage two years ago and depends on visits from nurses.

Ms Johnstone, said: "I was told if they came out and gave me one booster it would be a waste of the other five doses, but I'm sure they could find another five people in Knightswood area who are still waiting.

"It's frustrating because my son's going back to school now and obviously I can't say to him 'you're not going out' - kids are kids, they pick up everything.

"My mum goes out for food shopping and she is really careful, as are most of my family, but you just don't know where you're going to get it."

She fell ill with Covid in September and fears her immunity from previous vaccinations may be waning.

Ms Johnstone said: "I was pretty sick with it at the time - they wanted to move me into the hospice but I didn't want to go.

"I was determined just to fight it off. I know a booster might not totally stop me from getting infected, but if I hadn't had the two jags when I got covid last time then I probably wouldn't be here, so not having the booster now is a worry when my immunity will have waned.

"There are nurses in and out twice a day. The nurses are vaccinated obviously, but my brother and sister-in-law were covered too and they still got Omicron. There's so much of it about."

Shortage of vaccinators

Dr John Montgomery, chair of the South Glasgow GP Committee, said he knew of a woman in her 90s who had been asked to travel seven miles Dr Montgomery said: "Unsurprisingly that wasn't practical, whereas before she'd have walked 50 yards to the health centre."

During December, a push to increase vaccination rates and booster uptake among some 'hard-to-reach' patient groups - especially over-70s in more deprived areas - saw GPs invited to take part in a last-minute vaccine drive through GP practices.

Around 40 per cent of practices in the south of Glasgow took part, including Dr Montgomery's David Elder Medical Practice which delivered 200 extra vaccinations by Christmas Eve.

But Dr Montgomery said he would like to see GPs given the opportunity to be involved earlier in future rollouts.

Dr Montogomery said: "The housebound always tended to find themselves last in terms of getting a vaccine, even pre-covid with the flu vaccines where it was the district nurses who were largely responsible.

"And that was in the days of a nice, easy, single-dose vaccine. Now of course with the multi-dosing vials it's even more difficult to organise.

"The fundamental problem is a shortage of vaccinators - they've managed to recruit more for the push to get everyone done before the end of the year, but the housebound has always been a logistical problem.

"Taking general practice out of the equation I think has been detrimental. When we got the chance to do the over-75s, over-80s, and shielded earlier last year, the uptake was phenomenal.

"And a lot of the patients - who were genuinely housebound - when we said 'we can deliver this to you in the practice', had relatives to bring them in if that was at all practical."

MFL - NHS GGC and the Scottish Government have been approached for comment.

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