The Covid19 vaccine drive in the UK has been going at breakneck speed, with the over 65s and clinically vulnerable aged 16 to 64 now due to be called up. These groups make up cohorts 5 and 6 on the priority list, which will complete the first chapter of the vaccination drive. However, it’s recently emerged that many asthma suffers will no longer be in the priority group 6 banding they were led to believe they’d be in.
Covid19 Vaccine Status In The UK
The Covid19 vaccine drive in the UK has been going at breakneck speed, with over 15 million people given their first vaccination as of 14th February 2021. The over 65s (group 5) and clinically vulnerable aged 16 to 64 (group 6) are now due to be called up, which will complete the first chapter of the vaccination drive. However, it’s recently emerged that many asthma suffers will no longer be in the priority group 6 banding they were led to believe they’d be in.
The first vaccination in the UK was given on December 8th 2020, but it wasn’t until the start of 2021 that the speed was really ramped up. This tallied with the government changing the dosage regimen of Pfizer and Oxford’s Astra Zeneca vaccinations, leaving people waiting 3 months to receive the second dose of their vaccine rather than the 21 days as was stipulated in the initial research.
There are around 67 million people living in the UK. The government devised a list, one that has already been reworked since the beginning of the pandemic, to identify those who are at the greatest risk from coronavirus and need to shield. This list also indicates the order in which individuals can receive a vaccination.
The government set a target to offer the first four priority groups a vaccination by February 15th. The government claims this has now been done, allowing groups 5 and 6 can now be called forward.
Priority Groups For Covid19 Vaccinations
The JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) have set out a list to indicate the order in which everyone in the UK will receive their first dose of a Covid19 vaccine. This is split into two phases, the first being the 9 priority groups deemed most at risk and the second being the remaining population.
- Care home residents & their carers (approx 800,000 people)
- People over 80 years, plus frontline health & social care workers (7.1 million)
- People aged 75 to 79 (2.3 million)
- People aged 70 to 74, plus those considered ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ (4.4 million)
- People aged 65 to 69 (2.9 million)
- People aged 16 to 64 at higher risk with underlying chronic health conditions (7.3 million)
- People aged 60 to 64 (1.8 million)
- People aged 55 to 59 (2.4 million)
- People aged 50 to 54 (2.8 million)
The above is phase one. The government’s goal is to offer a first vaccine dose to all 9 of these priority groups before May 2021. A full break down of the priority groups and who’s included can be found on the government website.
Phase 2 will see all other members of the public called forward, but there’s still debate as to what front line staff, including teachers, should be at the top of that list.
Clinically Extremely Vulnerable & Clinically Vulnerable
The ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ group 4 has already caused controversy and confusion. At the start of the pandemic, some people were told to shield in error, while others were not told to shield at all despite being ‘extremely vulnerable’. When it comes to vaccinations, there’s a narrow criteria band for this group and only specific severe conditions are included, such as those who’ve had an organ transplant, are having chemotherapy for cancer, have blood/bone marrow cancer, have a severe lung condition, etc.
The ‘clinically vulnerable’ group 6 is for all individuals with underlying conditions that put them at greater risk of severe illness or death. This include the likes of those on immunosuppressants, those with conditions affecting the nerves or brain, lowered immunity, chronic liver or kidney disease, those with diabetes, heart disease or those with severe lung conditions like COPD, bronchitis, emphysema or severe asthma.
Many Asthma Sufferers Are No Longer A Vaccine Priority
It was originally indicated that those who are typically offered a flu vaccination for free on the NHS, which includes those with asthma of any severity, would be offered the vaccination in a priority group. Those with ‘non-severe’ asthma were considered to be at moderate risk from Covid and it was understood that individuals using a steroid inhaler would therefore be prioritised in group 6.
It now appears that only those with ‘severe asthma’ and lung conditions will be in group 6. It’s been found that the government has separately stated in the ‘Covid-19 green book’ that priority group asthmatics need to be on ‘regular systemic steroids’, meaning oral steroids for a number of months. Those with ‘well controlled’ or ‘non-severe’ asthma are no longer considered a priority for vaccination.
While Asthma UK claims to have been asking for clarity from the government for quite some time on this issue many patients have taken to social media to state their feelings of having been ‘let down’ or ‘sold out’ by the charity for not fighting on their behalf.
Those with non-severe asthma and lung conditions will now have to wait until after all 9 priority groups have been offered the vaccination, at which point they’ll be called up by age group. This could mean that a 30 year old with asthma is being vaccinated at the same time as a fit and healthy 30 year old athlete.
My Thoughts On Covid19 Vaccine Priority Grouping
It’s my opinion – and this is only a personal opinion – is that the government realised they needed to reduce the group size in order to achieve it’s target of offering a vaccination to all those in the first 9 priority groups before May 2021. Group 6 is a substantial group, and by removing some patients, like those with mild/moderate asthma, the government is able to reduce it significantly.
It’s worth bearing in mind that while there’s now a 12 week gap between first and second doses, this current first-jab pace can’t be maintained forever as people will be needing their follow-up vaccinations. The government have prioritised speed and numbers since the vaccinations were first given the go-ahead. They’re intent on ‘beating’ other countries in the vaccine race by having the highest figures for vaccinations, hence also the reckless decision to delay the second dose. Glowing about how well the vaccinations are going might soften the blow from how the UK has one of the highest death rates.
I also feel that the stipulation for only those with ‘severe’ lung conditions and ‘severe’ asthma has slipped through the net so as to not cause a stir. It’s only now becoming more widely known about but sadly there doesn’t seem to be enough uproar from those with any authority to be able to challenge the situation.
I personally don’t have asthma. I have lung disease and damage (bronchiectasis, lung scarring and inflammation) and autoimmune disease. I’ve thankfully just been contacted to book my vaccination. I do, however, know what it’s like to not have simply, black-and-white diagnoses on my medical records. It’s worrying when a judgement call is being made on such medical records when they might not be correct, even if you’ve tried to ensure they are.
This is a kick in the face for many people who’ve been shielding and taking every precaution available to stay safe, protecting themselves, their families and others. It’s also frustrating to read stories in national news publications of certain individuals getting vaccinations recently without meeting the criteria for any of the 4 priority groups, as well as some services slowing significantly due to not being allowed to move on to the next group.
What Can I Do?
If you want your voice heard, there’s a Change .org petition that can be signed and shared here. There’s also a new Parliamentary petition that can be signed here. You can also make others aware of the current situation by Tweeting about it and sharing authority news articles and the government guidance. This is so more people can be aware of the situation and be mindful that they may need to discuss their health condition with their doctor if they don’t get called up when they thought they would.
The government urges people not to contact their GP if they’ve not been called yet (unless they’re aged 70 or over), stating that individuals should wait to be contacted by the national vaccination service. However, the issue of underlying conditions for group 6 is not black and white and there is some degree of subjectivity here. Those in group 6 are being called from around February 15th and onwards. If you don’t hear anything in the next two weeks but are concerned about your health and needing a vaccination, then speak to your doctor.
Many chronic illness patients are concerned about the prioritising of vaccinations. The staff pulling the data will be searching by keywords, and if you don’t have particular conditions or you don’t have them stated as a diagnosis on your medical record, then the concern is that such people may be overlooked. It’s not as simple as searching by date of birth to call people forward by age.
Some charities are providing template letters for patients to help them lobby their doctors. It’s worth searching charity websites and social media accounts for further support if you need it. Doctors do have some power to add patients at their discretion to the vaccination list, though not all GPs seem to be fully aware of this.
Do you have a chronic underlying illness? Are you concerned about being missed off the priority groups?
(PS. I’m currently back & forth to the hospital for a sleep study I’m doing at home tonight and I may not be around much between Monday-Wednesday this week. I will catch up on comments, emails & reading other blogs as soon as I can).
Please note that the coronavirus vaccine situation is constantly evolving. Seek update information on authority news, NHS and government websites.
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