Vaccines Minister pledges move towards accessible vaccination communications

Post date: 
Friday, 5 March 2021
Category: 
Campaigning
Accessible information
Vials labelled "COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine", photo by Daniel Schludi.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi has told RNIB that he will act to make sure the vaccine programmes is accessible and has asked his team to look at how people can routinely get vaccine appointment booking information in their preferred formats.

We don’t yet have any timelines for this change, so will continue to raise this issue with the Government to ensure action is taken as soon as possible. In the meantime, if you are blind and partially sighted please make sure your communications preferences and visual impairment are logged with your GP.

Our work on the vaccine programme

We have been working with the NHS and Public Health England (PHE) on making the coronavirus vaccine programme accessible since the beginning of the year; RNIB first raised our concerns with the Cabinet Office in November 2020.

Since then, we worked with the Thomas Pocklington Trust and Guide Dogs to create joint guidance on the accessibility of the vaccine programme. All three organisations have been sharing with contacts in government across the four nations.

We raised issues relating to the accessibility of invitations, access to vaccination centres, and the signage and support available when getting your vaccine.

We’ve been working with the team at PHE and the NHSon the programme since early this year, and have shared places on our RNIB online sight loss awareness programme with vaccine staff and volunteers in England, Scotland, NI and Wales. We look forward to the take-up of this training nationally to improve awareness and knowledge of how to support blind and partially sighted people to have good vaccination experiences.

Accessible information about vaccines

We’ve been liaising with PHE about the accessibility of information it produces about the COVID-19 vaccine. A large range of alternative formats of the information you get about having the jab are available on gov.uk. and to order from the HealthPublications website. We look forward to the new audio versions that they are currently working on.

There’s also been a legislative  loophole which has meant that vaccine Patient Information Leaflets (PILs) from the vaccine manufacturers – like the instructions you get inside a medicine box – have not been available in the usual accessible formats. We have asked the Minister to confirm with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency it can make these leaflets available in accessible formats so we are expecting this to be resolved soon.

What happens next

We expect the Government to get to work straight away to make this happen. Under the Accessible Information Standard, disabled people should routinely and automatically be receiving information about their health in their preferred formats. In the meantime, we have been assured that anyone who doesn’t respond to their initial vaccine letter or text message will receive a follow up phone call.

The Government will also continue to make more general announcements on their progress through the priority list, so you should be able to identify if you’ve been overlooked and will be told to get in touch with your GP. This should help make sure no one is missed but is obviously no substitute for an initial accessible vaccine letter at the same time as everyone else.

Guide Dogs has some helpful information about what to expect when you get your coronavirus vaccine