Vaxi Taxi: the simple and innovative vaccination programme with equity at its core
By Integrated Care Journal-
Ensuring everyone has equal access to good healthcare is fundamental to reducing health inequalities. Dr Sharon Raymond, GP and director of Covid Crisis Rescue Foundation, is making accessibility easier through her Vaxi Taxi project, which helps those in London’s most vulnerable communities' access Covid-19 vaccinations and more. She spoke to Public Policy Projects Policy Analyst Lottie Moore about how the scheme is helping to solve a systemic issue.
The Vaxi Taxi scheme began in February of this year in response to the issue question of vaccine equity. Dr Raymond says: “I could see that we needed to get as many people as possible vaccinated and that posedD a challenge: what about the people with different needs, barriers and availabilities? ”
The initiative consists of taxis black cabs that provide transport to local vaccination centres, but also the taxi itself functions as a health and vaccination centre. “Creating a transport-related initiative solves a logistical problem for people shielding who cannot pay for private transport, but it has evolved to become much more than this. ”
Aside from the logistical solution, offering the vaccine in the taxi cab itself means it is more accessible to those with mental health needs who might not feel comfortable in large groups or for those who do not want to go to a vaccination centre because of its officiality.
“We are talking about the homeless, people with learning disabilities, sex workers, those with uncertain immigration status. Giving identification numbers and filling in IN forms for many people is not an option. Vaxi Taxi provides another option. ”
Emerging from the pandemic relies on the collective vaccination of everyone. Vaccine equity is essential in tackling post-Ccovid health inequalities. The risk of Covid-19 becoming a disease of the deprived is very real if not everyone accepts the vaccine. While the UK has one of the best vaccination roll-out programmes in the world, “we cannot leave people behind and risk health inequality” says Dr Raymond.
The Vaxi Taxi scheme reaches the corners of the society that a GP’s surgery orf vaccination centre may never reach – quite literally – by driving to them.
More than just a transportable vaccination centre
“The Vaxi Taxi project vaccination pop ups offer a space where people can discuss their hesitancy over taking the vaccine but also function as a mini health centre. We don’t expect people to get jabbed and leave; they can have a chat, have lunch, get their blood pressure checked or see the dentist, the physio, or even the podiatrist. Nine times out of ten, people feel reassured and so have the vaccine.
“We reach out to people with kindness. We have music in the background, we give people lunch, they get goody toiletry bags. I bring donated clothes, we put them on rails. ”
Dr Raymond co-ordinates the programme with leaders and organisations within the third sector, so the offer is bespoke: “I approach an area that has a need and hold a series of meetings with organisations who work with that cohort we want to serve. ”
Vaxi Taxi has worked with asylum seekers through organisations such as the Faiths Forum and unhoused people through the Red Cross and the number of people Vaxi Taxi has served is now in the hundreds. “Once we have reached out to a certain community with a Vaxi Taxi project vaccination pop up, this serves as a model for further vaccination events,” says Dr Raymond.
Scalability: a national model for future?
Dr Raymond is confident the Vaxi Taxi project is not only scalable, but that it has huge potential to benefit public health. As the NHS buckles under the pressure of the pandemic and increasing lack of resource, the Vaxi Taxi scheme could relieve some of the burden facing GPs.
“We know that many people may be suspicious of officialdom, including health institutions. People are not going to come to us. We have to go to them. ”
While the scheme has been supported by both crowd funding and more recently by NHS England funding for some of the events, it relies on a huge amount of goodwill too. Dr Raymond explains, “NHS staff could allocate a number of volunteer days each year to participating in Vaxi Taxi events. I believe there is a way of rolling out the project nationally while aiming to keep costs down and at the same time serve communities in a really effective way, taking some of the pressure off general practice. ”
Nonetheless, the health sector cannot face the burden of health inequality alone. Inequalities in education, income and employment do not just lead to unequal health outcomes but create unequal societies. Dr Raymond’s innovative scheme does not only offer a much-needed service, it also provides a model that could lead to a more equitable future for us all.
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