500,000 immunosuppressed people were told on September 2 they would receive a third dose. But two weeks on, some tell the Mirror they are still waiting amid confusion between government and NHS
Image: Sonya Clarke)
People with severely weakened immune systems have warned they are having their vital third Covid jab delayed because of confusion between the Government and the NHS.
More than two weeks ago, ministers said they would jab half a million people who are severely immunosuppressed for a third time because their first two jabs are unlikely to have worked.
The third jabs are separate to the mass booster programme that was announced for 30million Brits earlier this week. Immunosuppressed people are eligible for a third dose, and then also a fourth booster dose.
Consultants and GPs were told to identify eligible patients within their care from the group of 500,000, and offer them a third vaccine as soon as possible.
But despite the announcement and communication from the NHS on September 2, patients have told the Mirror their GPs and consultants are still not formally aware of the primary course 3rd dose for this most at risk group.
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Some patients are being told by their GPs and hospital consultants they know “nothing about it” or are “still waiting for government advice” before rolling out the critical jab.
The news comes after the Government quietly axed the shielding programme for the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable on the day of a Cabinet reshuffle, despite fears of a huge winter wave.
Charities including Crohn’s & Colitis UK and Blood Cancer UK have received several calls from worried people who have been unable to get the jab, despite Mr Javid telling parliament this week that he “accepted” advice and “acted on it immediately”.
The confusion has left some patients playing ‘Russian Roulette’ with Covid and one described the delay as an “impending doom”.
Sarah Sleet, CEO of Crohn’s & Colitis UK, said: “We’re hearing from people with Crohn’s and Colitis not able to get the third dose who should be offered it.
“People are confused and anxious about what happens next. The Department of Health and Royal Colleges need to work this out quickly to make things clear, especially with the end of furlough on 30th September.
“We need to make sure that every eligible person is identified, contacted, and booked in.”
Gemma Peters, Chief Executive of Blood Cancer UK, said: “While some people have been invited for their third dose, there are many who have not heard anything since the announcement two weeks ago.
“Contacting people with compromised immunity now needs to be a priority. Throughout the pandemic communication with people with immunocompromised has not been good enough.
“We have already heard from people who are anxious they will miss out, have contacted their GPs and been told they know nothing about it.”
Married mother-of-three Sonya Clarke, from Birmingham, was diagnosed with GPA vasculitis six years ago and is being treated with the immunosuppressive drug Rituximab.
Sonya, 51, emailed her GP on Sunday to ask to be booked in for her third jab but she was told they did not have “a date or guidance on eligibility from NHS England on the rollout of the third Covid vaccination”.
This was despite the Government and NHS announcement more than 10 days earlier.
Solicitor Mrs Clarke then sent another email with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) attachment and was told by her GP surgery that they were still “waiting for guidance” from their vaccine hub and to contact them.
Sonya said: “I just have a sense of impending doom. We shouldn’t be fobbed off getting the third primary vaccine if the details have been published. It shouldn’t be this hard.
“I feel more vulnerable now than when we were in lockdown because all the mitigations have been removed.
“The hope that the vaccine may protect me is the only hope I’ve got. I feel let down. If the Government and NHS can’t deliver a third vaccine they shouldn’t have announced it.”
Environment Agency worker Chris Jones has also experienced the delay despite repeated calls to his GP.
The 29-year-old from Wolverhampton was diagnosed with Crohn’s 13 years ago and has been treated with the immunosuppressive therapy Ustekinumab for past 4 years.
He said: “It’s just ridiculous. There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding out there as I’ve even been told I can only have two jabs!
“On my third call to the GP I was told that the local vaccine hub had shut down so it would not be administered by GPs but I’m still not really getting anywhere with it.
“On my fourth and fifth call I quoted the JCVI press release but my request for a third jab was still refused.
“The announcement of the ‘booster’ jabs have definitely clouded the whole process. My worry is that the third jab will be forgotten about.
“There needs to be better effective communication from the top to the bottom because there seems to be a blockage.
“The message has got out to patients, the media and charities but not to the majority of GPs who aren’t aware of it or don’t know how to put it into practice, which is a dangerous thing.”
And a married mum-of-two, who doesn’t want to be named, told the Mirror that she was simply told by her hospital that “we have no responsibility our end”.
The 49-year-old from Sutton Coldfield has had Ulcerative Colitis for 12 years and has been treated with immunosuppressive therapy adalimumab and azathioprine since 2019.
Despite numerous calls and tweets begging her GP and local Birmingham and Solihull CCG for the third jab she has hit a dead end.
When she did eventually get a response she was told: “Nobody has been contacted about the booster jab. You’re on the CV [Clinically Vulnerable] list and will be contacted in due course.”
The retirement care home worker says she feels “completely insignificant” and is terrified of catching Covid as she has to mix with residents, carers and relatives as part of her job. She says she is playing “Russian Roulette” at the moment.
She said: “I am so angry. I hate causing a fuss. Every day is a fight for me with my illness. I come home and collapse after work and struggle to do anything so this is a fight I really don’t need. It shouldn’t be this difficult. The guidelines are out there. I just don’t understand why we can’t get a third jab.”
NHS England had not responded to a request for comment after 24 hours.
However, following our calls Chris Jones’ case was “being resolved” and GPs for Sony Clarke and the 49-year-old married mum-of-two were now “talking to their consultants”.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We’ve been clear that people with severely weakened immune systems will be offered a third vaccine dose as part of their primary COVID-19 vaccination schedule. This offer is separate to the booster programme that started this week.
“We are working with the NHS to make sure everyone eligible for this third dose receives it as quickly as possible.”