NHS England has advised people with a severe mental illness (SMI) and their unpaid carers to book their first COVID-19 vaccination before slots run out.
Public Health England categorise people with severe mental illness as: “Individuals with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or any mental illness that causes severe functional impairment.”
A new blog post by NHS England says they want GPs to take a ‘flexible’ approach to defining SMI, and it could include those who are ‘severely unwell with an eating disorder’ or have a diagnosis of a personality disorder.
People with SMI are eligible for the vaccine as they come under priority group six, and began to receive invites for the vaccine in February.
The vaccine rollout has so far been very successful, boasting over 30 million recipients of the first dose and over 2 million recipients of both doses, as of writing.
But it has been predicted that there could be a shortage of supply in coming weeks, and there will soon be a focus on higher priority groups receiving their second jabs.
“Appointments for first doses are still available for the rest of March, but they are filling up fast," say Dr Nikki Kanani and Claire Murdoch in the NHS England blog post.
“So if you have a SMI or care for someone who does, and you haven’t had your first dose yet, please make this week the week you book.”
Research indicates that those with SMI are at a higher risk of catching COVID-19 compared to the rest of the population, as physical diseases such as diabetes, respiratory tract diseases, and cardiovascular diseases coincide with mental illness.
In addition, people with SMI are also linked to environmental factors that can be increase risk, such as socioeconomic deprivation, working in unsafe environments, and living in overcrowded settings or being homeless.
Most health and care workers have had their first dose as they fall under priority groups one and two, but there is now a call for unpaid carers to receive their first dose.
Rethink Mental Illness has advice for unpaid carers, and defines these carers as: “Those who are in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill.”
Unpaid carers can contact their GP if they are unaware of their status, in order for themselves and the person they care to be booked in for a vaccine slot.
If you are living with an SMI or you are an unpaid carer, Equally Well UK has updated its guide for people with SMI and their carers on what to expect from the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
All the information you need about booking a vaccination, what to do when you get your vaccine, and reasonable adjustments you might need to make is available to read here.
If you have not been invited for the vaccine and you are living with an SMI, or care for those who do, then you can book a vaccination slot here.
If you believe that your diagnosis causes ‘severe functional impairment’, then speak to your GP about being prioritised for a vaccine.
Written by Megan Robinson
News reporter for Talking Mental Health