#MEAction UK recently wrote to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). We requested clarity on where people with ME are placed in the priority groups laid out by the government for the COVID-19 vaccine in the UK.
We have now received a response. While the JCVI are not going to explicitly name ME within group six of the vaccine priority list, they do make it clear that this list is not exhaustive and clinical judgement should be applied:
Both the ME Association and Action for ME have developed template letters for people with ME to send to their GP requesting they are placed into group six.
We are hearing of varying levels of success, but consider this a worthwhile step to try. Find links to these template letters below:
The JCVI have also stated they are open to receiving further evidence around the risk of increased morbidity related to COVID-19. This would include exacerbation of ME.
#MEAction UK is working to provide further evidence to the JCVI on this matter. We will keep the community updated with our progress.
Read the full response from the JCVI:
Thank you for your email. We also had an email from Dr Charles Shepherd raising similar concerns and I have included the response below.
For this first phase of the COVID-19 mass vaccination programme, JCVI has advised that, the first priorities should be the prevention of COVID-19 mortality and the protection of health and social care staff and systems.
Accordingly, the order of priority was based on estimates of the risk of dying from COVID-19. The priority order for Phase 1 reflects the estimated number of persons needed to vaccinate to save one life. It is estimated that the groups prioritised represent around 99% of preventable mortality from COVID-19.
Phase 1 is largely prioritised by age due to the very strong association of older age and increased mortality from COVID-19. Persons aged >16 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of dying from COVID-19 are also included in Phase 1 of the programme. The Committee has not identified any robust data to indicate that, as a group, persons with ME/CFS are at higher risk of dying from COVID19 (see references below).
The Green Book immunisations against infectious disease (weblink included below) provides the details of the clinical risk groups in persons 16 years of age and over who should receive COVID-19 immunisation in Phase 1. The examples included are not exhaustive, and, the advice states that within these groups, the prescriber should apply clinical judgment to take into account the risk of COVID-19 exacerbating any underlying disease that a patient may have, as well as the risk of serious illness from COVID-19 itself.
The Committee has started the process for the development of advice for the second phase of the immunisation programme. Identifying the remaining preventable morbidity burden from COVID19 is part of the considerations for phase 2 of the programme. If you have specific scientific evidence related to ME/CFS and the risk of increased morbidity from COVID-19, and can share these with JCVI, please let us know. The Committee will review these as part of its considerations for phase 2 of the programme.
On behalf of
Professor Wei Shen Lim JCVI Chair COVID-19 immunisation
Consultant Respiratory Physician and Honorary Professor (Respiratory Medicine)
Nottingham University Hospitals
Williamson EJ, Walker AJ, Bhaskaran K, et al. Factors associated with COVID-19-related death using OpenSAFELY. Nature. 2020 Aug;584(7821):430-436.
Clift AK, Coupland CAC, Keogh RH et al. Living risk prediction algorithm (QCOVID) for risk of hospital admission and mortality from coronavirus 19 in adults: national derivation and validation cohort study. BMJ. 2020 Oct 20;371:m3731.
Green Book Immunisation against infectious disease COVID-19 chapter: