A vaccination clinic has been set-up in Glasgow to provide COVID vaccinations for newly arrived asylum seekers.
The clinic, which recently welcomed the first vaccination patients to its base in Govan, is part of Glasgow City's HSCP Asylum Health Bridging Team which provides a range of health services to some of Scotland’s most vulnerable communities.
Craig Davidson, a senior nurse within the team, helped to administer the first vaccines at the clinic. He said: “People have been really positive about getting access to the vaccine – to protect them and the wider community. We want to make sure that asylum seekers get the same access to health care and the COVID vaccine as the rest of the population.”
The clinic is targeting asylum seekers who have recently arrived in Glasgow, in the four to six week window where the team can offer assistance before patients’ asylum journey progresses. An initial health assessment can take up to 90 minutes, looking at physical illnesses and conditions and to provide mental health and trauma support. The team also support people who may have been victims of trafficking and women who may have been subject to abuse or FGM. After the initial assessment is over, patients are invited back to the clinic for the COVID vaccination, with accommodation provider Mears, arranging transport.
Craig added: “It’s about building trust. We support them through the traumatic experience they have been through and at least 95% have been through a traumatic journey just to get to the UK.”
The clinic was the brainchild of Stewart Curtis, team leader at the service. While asylum seekers already established in accommodation were targeted as part of earlier COVID vaccination outreach programmes, or able to access their jab through community clinics, Stewart recognised that not everyone could do the same.
He said: “The people we are seeing don’t know the community, they don’t know where to go. I wouldn’t even try to imagine what some of our service users have left behind and what some of them have gone through just to get here.
“We’re the first point of NHS contact for them. We are that friendly face and space, somewhere they feel comfortable and we can have the vaccination clinic here, where people know us and feel they are in a safe and supportive environment.”
Stewart said his team have welcomed the opportunity to add the vaccine to the range of support services on offer. He added: “I know the positive impact my staff are having on each individual’s life that comes through the door – that makes me really proud.”
Craig has also seen the benefits. He said: “I began my nursing career in May 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. I used to work in a ward treating patients who had COVID and dealing with a high level of death and trauma was, for me, really hard. It’s great to see this side with people who are so pleased to get the vaccine in the knowledge that it will protect them and the wider community.”