Supporting our patients to receive their COVID vaccinations
We know there is growing evidence regarding the elevated risks for people with various health conditions if they catch COVID and are unvaccinated.
At a recent live engagement hour, we discussed the important issue of supporting our patients to receive their COVID vaccinations. The session mainly focused on Cohort 6 – that is, the clinically vulnerable – which includes many of our at-risk groups of patients, such as those with a severe mental illness, a learning disability or substance misuse issues. The session also covered those who are pregnant or have recently had a baby.
The full live engagement hour can be viewed on Youtube. Following the session, we have pulled together some questions and thoughts expressed by Assistant Director of Public and Physical Healthcare Richard Morrow, Deputy Chief Pharmacist Katherine Hosseini and colleagues during the session:
How does COVID affect our at-risk groups?
We have done really well in getting the vast majority of our patients vaccinated. However, there are a number of patients who are unvaccinated who also have a number of risk factors other than a severe mental illness, such as respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, liver disease or diabetes; many of our patients are at increased risk of having or developing these conditions. These factors could greatly increase their risk of being seriously ill from COVID.
The latest data on the mortality rates for those with underlying conditions, in terms of COVID-related mortality, shows that the risk of COVID mortality is twice as high if you have a mental illness. This is likely to be influenced by a number of factors, such as other co-morbid health conditions, lifestyle factors, social circumstances or access to healthcare. What we know for certain is that the risk can be reduced by supporting our patients to access a vaccination.
How can colleagues start the conversations with patients?
Based on the work of our Learning Disability service teams, and also the feedback from the vaccination sites, we have pulled together some suggestions to aid a conversation. Patient feedback indicates that most of our patients see us as trusted health professionals; they do not expect us to be experts in everything, but trust us to help them to navigate information and weigh up their choices:
- Firstly, check if the information we have on the person’s vaccination status is correct
- Ask if they are happy for you to share some up-to-date information – for example, the information on the NHS website about the vaccine
- Recognise and validate concerns – by being understanding of their relationship with the vaccine and what they are worried about
- Help them assess the pros and cons – for example, young people might not become seriously ill, but they may develop long-COVID (which affects around 10% of adults who become unwell with COVID-19); having to take time off work due to the side effects of the vaccine may be unappealing, but is it worse than having to take time off work with COVID itself?
- Be honest: if you don’t know the answer, we can try and find out or seek advice from someone else – a pharmacy, the Health Protection Unit, Joined Up Care Derbyshire, or GPs are all able to assist in finding answers or weighing up information
- Try to encourage people to keep an open mind: it’s okay for them to be unsure or to say ‘no’ for now. The information is constantly changing, and new evidence and learning are emerging all the time (pregnancy guidance being a good example) so, if possible, leave room for someone to reconsider in the future
- Record a summary of the conversation on Paris or SystmOne. We are collating feedback to reduce vaccine inequalities and improve access to sites. Any information helps.
There is a great toolkit on the Joined Up Care Derbyshire page to help explain the COVID vaccine to many of our different communities, and also what to expect if they choose to have the jab. We also had an open conversation about women who are pregnant or breastfeeding in last week’s all-staff message, which is important in terms of having those quality conversations.
We are in a really powerful position to advocate and support people, not necessarily to be equipped with all the answers, but certainly to listen, understand and help people weigh up what can be a quite tricky decision.
If I need help in supporting a patient, whom can I ask?
The Health Protection Unit team is available if you need any specific advice or guidance. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Providing young people with accessible information on the COVID-19 vaccination
The Centre for Mental Health have a developed a new webpage that provides young people with information on the COVID-19 vaccination.
This page provides information about the vaccination for young people affected by mental health problems, including those with severe mental illness and carers. It also gives information on eligibility, how to book the vaccine and what happens on the day. It also lists some of the support available.
Patients with learning disabilities
If you support any service users or carers who have a learning disability, you may wish to help them by sharing the easy-read materials about the vaccination on the gov.uk website.
Public Health England has produced a leaflet for people who have had their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine and have concerns about having the second dose.
The leaflet, which is also available as a webpage on the gov.uk website, explains why having the second dose is so important. It also points out that the AstraZeneca vaccine causes fewer mild side effects (like headaches and chills) after the second dose.
The leaflet also addresses the rarer side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which have been reported in the UK and internationally. It sets out the data showing that these rarer side effects have occurred far less often after the second dose of vaccine.
If you are supporting someone who has had their first AstraZeneca dose but is unsure about attending their second appointment, please share this leaflet with them.
Further information for patients and carers
More information on the vaccine in Derbyshire is available on the Joined Up Care Derbyshire website.
Joined Up Care Derbyshire has developed a useful toolkit and resources to support communities regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. These toolkits, which have a particular focus on the COVID vaccines, are currently available for African, Caribbean, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities. There is also a series of videos about what to expect when going for a COVID-19 vaccination, available in different languages, available on the Joined Up Care Derbyshire website.
Posters produced telling people’s vaccination stories
Members of our EQUAL Forum, who represent our service users and carers, have kindly come forward to encourage others to get vaccinated. Their comments are captured on posters which are being printed and sent to several Trust sites.
Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service has also produced a video to encourage communities to take up the vaccine when they are contacted for it. The video features a message in English, Urdu, Polish, Punjabi, Hindi, Miripuri and Sign Language. View the video on YouTube.
In addition, the gov.uk website includes a range of information in different languages about what to expect after your vaccination.
Information on the vaccine is available on the NHS.UK website.