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The Covid-19 vaccine and advice for those living with severe mental health illness

Since the first vaccine was developed in December 2020, The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised governments on the groups of people prioritised to receive the vaccine.

As of 15 February, those living with diagnosed severe mental illnesses were considered a priority and eligible to receive their vaccine doses. Those caring for someone with a severe mental illness as well as inpatients in Mental Health, Learning Disability and Autism settings were also included as a priority.  

“Those eligible due to severe mental illness are people who live with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or any mental illness that causes severe functional impairment”.

Public Health England

At Oxfordshire Mind, we continue to support those living with severe mental illness throughout the pandemic and have some useful information for anyone that may be uncertain or worried about their vaccine appointment.   

Normally, you will be invited to make an appointment when it is your turn for Covid-19 vaccination. You may receive a letter, text or email. You might be contacted by the NHS, or by your own GP.

When booking appointments, it is important to provide information about any medication you might be taking for their medical conditions. Writing down a list before making appointments can help to prepare.

Further things to consider include:

  • Finding out where your vaccination will be, so you know what to expect. It could be at a vaccination centre, a local health centre, a hospital or at your GP surgery.
  • Taking someone with you. You can take a carer with you into your appointment if you need to.
  • Try arranging something to look forward to afterwards. For example, this could be a nice meal, a chat with a friend or a film to watch.
  • Ask what support there is. Your GP should be able to tell you if there is any flexibility in where you attend your appointment. At the appointment itself, the person giving you the vaccine may be able to use things like numbing cream if you are worried about pain or sensations.
  • If you feel anxious before booking your appointment, try using relaxation techniques like focusing on your breathing, grounding techniques, or distracting yourself with music or a book.

If you still have concerns or are experiencing anxiety and would prefer to speak to a staff member at Oxfordshire Mind, please contact the Information Service for advice, signposting, and support. The Information Service is open on Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm, and can be reached on 01865 247788 or by text on 07451 277973 and by email at info@oxfordshiremind.org.uk.

Rethink Mental Illness also provide information on the vaccine for those living with severe mental illness which can be found here.

For general information and support and guidance surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine, visit the NHS website here.