Photo credit: Andrew Parsons No10 Downing St
As reported last week, the preliminary findings from the joint survey between #MEAction and Action for M.E demonstrated that most respondents with ME experienced an exacerbation of their underlying disease and prolonged illness from Covid-19 itself.
The survey is still live for people who with ME who have had Covid-19 to take part.
In light of this new evidence of exacerbation, #MEAction UK have again written to Matt Hancock and Stephen Powis to make them aware of the risk to people with ME in not being able to access the Covid-19 vaccine as a priority.
This is a follow up to our email to Mr Hancock and Professor Powis in March, when we highlighted the omission of advice to vaccination centres and GPs that they were able to use their clinical judgment to include people with underlying health conditions in group 6. An issue that was causing people to be refused the vaccine as part of the group 6 roll out, despite the use of a template letter to contact their GP.
We have urged Mr Hancock and Prof Powis to take urgent action to protect people with ME.
Read our letter:
Dear Professor Powis and Mr Hancock,
I previously wrote to you both in March, regarding the difficulties people with ME are having with getting their GP to classify them as being in group 6 for the vaccine roll out.
During this pandemic you have repeatedly assured the public that you are “Following the science”.
With this in mind, we are writing today to update you with the preliminary findings from a joint survey between #MEAction and Action for M.E. The main finding indicated is that people with ME are both at risk of Covid-19 exacerbating their underlying disease and are at risk of prolonged illness from Covid-19 itself.
More than three quarters (76%) of respondents said that Covid-19 made their ME symptoms worse and 72% reported new symptoms. Not only that, but this impact appears to be long lasting with worsening in symptoms lasting more than 6 months.
While this is only a preliminary report, it is important to share the information we have now during what is an ongoing and evolving situation.
While the vaccine is being rolled out to progressively younger age groups, people at serious risk from Covid-19 are still not being vaccinated as a priority group. This is important not only now during the initial roll out but going forward when boosters may be required later in the year as the classification currently used is still excluding these groups.
When a constituent wrote to you about this situation in February, you replied advising:
“I want to assure you that we are committed to vaccinating according to need”
This still does not appear to be happening for people with ME.
GP’s are still unaware that they are able to use their clinical judgment to place patients in group 6. As advised in our previous communication with you, this appears to be because the full advice in the Green Book was not included in the letter from NHS England sent to all Local Vaccination Sites and copied to CCG’s, GP’s and Regional leaders in February.
That advice states:
“The examples above are not exhaustive...clinical judgment should be applied 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.”
We previously asked that you ensure that NHS England update their advice to include this crucial information to all Local Vaccination Sites, CCGs, GPs and Regional leaders
We now urge you to take action as a matter of urgency before more patients are needlessly put at risk.
S. Louise Beaton
On behalf of #MEAction UK