REFLECTION: Autism and Covid 19 Vaccine rollout Programme – addressing side effects and concerns

We know that individuals on the autism spectrum have difficulties adapting to change and rely heavily on routine and structure to support functioning and engagement.

Healthwatch Camden partnered with Asperger London Area Group (ALAG) and Autism Hub Islington (AHI) to deliver a webinar to support autistic adults learn more about the COVID-19 vaccination programme. The webinar was held on 11 May 2021; the event was moderated and hosted by Nick Stone from the Autism Hub and ALAG. 

Panellists included Dr Ammara Hughes from Bloomsbury Surgery, Healthwatch Camden’s Shelly Khan and Dr Wikum Jayatunga from Camden & Islington Public Health. Staff from Camden’s vaccine bus was also able to attend the webinar to talk about the vaccine bus. The bus was launched in partnership between Camden Council and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH), which offers an alternative, accessible way for people to get vaccinated.  It aims to encourage people who may be less confident in having the jab by giving people reassurance and information on site. The bus runs for four hours a day, three days a week.

During the discussion, people told us that due to the government guidelines about social distancing and isolation, people were not able to meet friends or family, which has had an impact on their mental health. There was a lot of anxiety about when everything will start returning to ‘normal’ life.

People wanted to know the effectiveness of the different vaccines and if they will be totally protected after having both doses. Some people wanted to know if they can choose which vaccine they get and if they can mix and match, especially those who already have had one dose of the Astra Zeneca but are now nervous about taking the second dose.

We heard that communication is often a barrier and good communication can help to provide reassurance to alleviate any associated anxiety and confusion. It is important to adapt the way we communicate to help support everyone’s needs.

We held several polls during the webinar to ask participants about their experience of Covid 19 vaccinations and the webinar itself.

The results are below:  

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