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Government must consider people who are less protected by COVID-19 vaccines

New findings show 68% of UK adults are not aware that some people are less protected by COVID-19 vaccines than others.

There's around half a million people in the UK, including some people with MS, who may be less protected by the COVID-19 vaccine. So we've joined a coalition of 16 health charities to call on the government to do more to support them.

Who with MS might have less protection?

People whose immune systems are suppressed, because of the treatment they are taking (or took recently), which might reduce the effectiveness of any vaccine. This includes high-dose steroids and some disease modifying treatments (DMTs).

Read our Medical Advisers' consensus statement on MS treatments and COVID-19 vaccines

How at risk you are from COVID-19 as a result of being less protected from the vaccines will depend on your other risk factors, and if you are clinically extremely vulnerable.

Read about the clinically extremely vulnerable group

Not enough people aware of the risks to those around them

On Monday 12 July the government are expected to announce if all COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted on Monday 19 July in England.

After 19 July, people would be allowed to make their own decisions around mask wearing and giving people space. But in order to make those decisions, people need to have all the facts about their own risk level and the risks faced by other people. We're not confident that's the case.

YouGov data released today shows that over two thirds (68%) of UK adults are not aware people with some health conditions, or medications, are not as protected by both doses of COVID-19 vaccine as effectively as the general public.

Better information and support needed

We're calling for

  • Communications to patients, the wider public and employers about the potentially higher and continued risk COVID-19 poses to immunocompromised groups.
  • People still at high risk must have access to support to minimise that risk - including medicine and food deliveries, flexibility in work start and finish times to avoid peak-travel time, the ability to work from home, and access to the furlough scheme for those who can’t. This is so no one is forced to choose between protecting their health and protecting their livelihood.
  • Investment in and access to alternative treatments which may prove more effective for immunocompromised groups.

We need better information so we can protect each other

Phillip Anderson, our Head of Policy says: “The lack of awareness about the risks still faced by immunocompromised people, including some with MS, is alarming. With the easing of restrictions just days away, people need to know how to make informed decisions about keeping themselves and others safe.

“The government must set out a clear plan to ensure those not fully protected by the vaccine know their level of risk and can get the support they need, including access to medicine and food deliveries.

"People most at risk must also be able to work from home where possible, and the furlough scheme should continue for those who can’t. No one should be forced to choose between their health and their livelihood.”

We need freedom for everyone

Sarah Hemmings, was diagnosed with highly active relapsing MS in 2019. Because of the pandemic, Sarah is on an extended career break from teaching.

She's on disease modifying treatment (DMT) ocrelizumab to manage symptoms like fatigue, speech and problems with thinking.

"Does the value of not being mildly inconvenienced by wearing a mask really outweigh the value of lives like mine?"

Despite being fully-vaccinated, a recent antibody test has shown she hasn’t developed any COVID-19 antibodies.

She says: “What I really want is for the government to do what they haven’t managed to do yet – consider this huge group of immunocompromised people. If they are focused on economic reopening, why not keep masks and social distancing so that more people can participate in society?

"If they are concerned about individual freedoms, why is mine and that of people in similar situations being curtailed? Does the value of not being mildly inconvenienced by wearing a mask really outweigh the value of lives like mine?”

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