Most states are planning to offer COVID-19 vaccines in three different phases, starting with people working on the frontline to care for the sick and those who are considered to be highly susceptible to severe illness or death.
Across the nation, medical professionals are worried whether their patients would get the vaccine when it's made available to them. Especially homeless people would be reluctant to get the vaccine for several reasons. There are about 600,000 homeless people in the United States, and convincing them to receive the vaccine is quite challenging.
So, why are homeless people so reluctant to get the vaccine? There can be various reasons behind this, including the lack of awareness, believing misinformation, and distrust over the healthcare system based on unpleasant experiences of the past.
How can we encourage people experiencing homelessness to get the vaccine? We need to be proactive with multiple strategies, but we also require to have the COVID-19 vaccine prioritized for this population as well.
When Will, The Homeless Able, To Get The Vaccine?
Across the country, homeless people are not included in any of the intended vaccine distribution phases by the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices). However, different states are permitted to outline the specific members of the priority groups.
As per the reports of the National Academy for State Health Policy, the following states are planning to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines in the next phase:
- North Carolina
- New Jersey
Texas and Massachusetts have not yet specified which segment of phase 1 homeless people would be given vaccinations. Phase 1A is now on-going. This implies that the vaccinations for homeless shelters could start soon once the supplies are accessible.
While homelessness cannot guarantee a higher position in the vaccine priority list, CDC believes that the people experiencing homelessness have several additional attributes, including age and employment in specific jobs. These characteristics will also impact when the COVID-19 vaccine is made available to them.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also indicates the requirement for vaccine distribution strategies exclusive to people experiencing homelessness, especially individuals who live in streets rather than shelters.
Why Is There Hesitancy Among The Homeless For COVID-19 Vaccine?
Here could be a distinct fear among homeless people about the COVID-19 vaccines. The reason can be due to years of unpleasant experiences with superiors.
The majority of homeless people have undergone physical and mental trauma both before and during homelessness. This trauma, along with the current stigma, has provided them with numerous reasons for not being able to trust the medical professionals and other people with authority.
Another factor that should be taken into consideration is logistical support. Practical difficulties may keep homeless individuals from getting the vaccinations or returning for the subsequent dose.
Making strategies to track people living on the streets to ensure that they return for the subsequent dose is significant for the whole community.
How To Overcome This Vaccine Hesitancy?
To increase the COVID-19 vaccine use among homeless people incorporates providing clear information, giving them incentives such as gift cards, transportation, socks, or any other utilities. Motivate the homeless people in your community to get the vaccine by making them comprehend its importance and clearing away their misconceptions.
The homeless people may believe a myth that the COVID-19 vaccine has a chip attached to it and that people will be able to spy on them if you get vaccinated. They may also be worried about its side effects or unable to understand why there is a need to get two doses of it.
The healthcare providers may recommend people living in the streets come back after three weeks for the next dose of the vaccine. But, the people living in the streets may not necessarily consider it. This is because they are dealing with the cruel realities of life every day, such as where will they sleep this night, how will they arrange food for themselves and their children, etc.
COVID-19 vaccine would be made available to people at different phases. Make sure you get it when it's your turn. Also, try to spread awareness about the significance of getting vaccinated to homeless individuals living in your community.