'What could Covid do to us?' - Asthma sufferers demand jab U-turn
- Credit: Getty/Ruth Collins/Jo Woods
People with asthma in Norfolk are calling for a rethink, amid fears a change in Covid vaccine prioritisation could put them at risk.
Changes to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice mean those with moderate and moderate-severe asthma - those on the annual flu vaccine list - are no longer in group six of the vaccine programme.
NICE, the non-public health body, defined severe asthma as one that requires treatment with high dose inhaled corticosteroids to prevent it from becoming 'uncontrolled', or remains 'uncontrolled' despite this therapy.
The JCVI, for the priority vaccine rollout, defined severe asthma as those who have a continuous or repeated use of oral steroids or ever had an emergency asthma admissions.
Norfolk residents have raised fears over the change.
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Jo Woods, 45, who lives near Holt, said she was fortunate her GP exercised discretion under the new guidance to call her for her first vaccine.
She fears for other people with asthma who are being denied a priority vaccine, particularly those in their 20s and 30s who remain unprotected as society reopens.
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Mrs Woods, who is self-employed, said: "We’re not asking for people with asthma to be vaccinated before those who need it more; we’re asking for people with asthma to be vaccinated before people who need it less.
"A simple cold absolutely floors me. I need a course of highdose oral steroids and antibiotics and it takes my lungs weeks to recover completely. If that's what a cold – another Coronavirus - can do to someone with already compromised lungs, what would Covid do?"
A message from the prime minister last month caused further confusion when he said anyone clinically vulnerable "including the asthmatics" were in the priority group.
Mrs Woods highlighted there had been recent scientific research, including in The Lancet, reported those with severe asthma as defined by NICE, were at increased risk of death and all asthmatics at an increased risk of severe disease, hospitalisation and long Covid.
Mrs Woods added: "Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease and Covid-19 is a virus that attacks the respiratory system so it is extremely concerning we're not all being protected."
Lee Hyde, 41, from Thorpe St Andrew, spent a month contacting his GP about having the vaccine as he was requiring his inhaler more. He had his first vaccine dose at the weekend.
Mr Hyde said: "I'm more concerned about the long-term impacts. My family is not going out when things are starting to reopen. My asthma is more acute, it's a little worse than it was at the beginning.
"When you see others are not being treated in the same way you cannot help wondering why should we have to wait."
Asthma UK and the Lung Foundation launched a petition in response to the change, with more than 27,000 signatures.
Sarah Woolnough chief executive of Asthma UK, said: "We were very disappointed when the government announced the age-based roll out of the covid-19 vaccine.
"It cannot be right for younger people with asthma to wait even longer for their vaccination when they are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill than their peers.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said mild asthma, including that which can be treated by an inhaler alone, was not found to carry a higher risk of serious outcomes from Covid-19.
The spokesman said: “The government is focused on saving lives and continue to follow the advice of the independent JCVI who recommended vaccinating the most vulnerable people first, based on age and clinical vulnerability as the biggest factor determining mortality.
“We hit our target to offer a vaccine to everyone in phase one of the vaccination programme, which includes adults with severe asthma in priority group four and those with poorly controlled asthma who are in priority group six. This includes anyone who has ever had an emergency asthma admission to hospital and those who require regular steroids."