Recently, my Twitter feed was a bit angrier than normal. Frankly most of the time I’m tweeting baking recipes and highlighting advancements in allergy treatment. That’s really been my focus – providing recipes and advice for parents of allergic kids. But recently, as an asthmatic, and mother of an asthmatic teenager, thanks to Covid, asthma has been our top concern.
Jo Woods, who’s been heading up the #asthmaticsatrisk campaign has done great work trying to raise the profile of asthmatics removed from Group 6. There is quite the team of hardworking asthma sufferers working with her to raise awareness, and collate information.
So what’s the story? Well, moderate to mild asthmatics were told they were vulnerable right up to the vaccine rollout. If you tell people with a chronic lung disease, people who have experienced difficulty breathing, that they must protect themselves and limit their exposure to a new virus, in the main they do. There’s nothing like a crushing pain in your chest, a constant coughing while you try to catch your breath, to concentrate your mind when it comes to new viruses.
And if you really want to live with visceral fear – then imagine what it was like for us rushing Molly to hospital during a severe asthma attack. We were whisked through admissions – Molly was on a heart monitor, proper pads on her chest, oral steroids, and intravenous steroids – the works. Luckily all the steroids worked, talk of ICU stopped, and she spent a night in hospital in the normal ward. We then spent 2 weeks weaning her off steroids. I will never forget a moment of that night, or the fear I felt.
There has never been a proper explanation for the asthma attack. Until that night, Molly was on a brown puffer when she got a cold. Nothing more. Over time, the fear subsided, but everything changed. Suddenly we were the ‘do you have your Ventolin?’ family. Never leaving home without it – making sure the school has some too. Every day, at any time, an asthmatic could have an asthma attack. It changes things, there is no fear worse for a parent than worrying about your child. But things calmed down, there wasn’t another attack so life returned to ‘normal’, just with Ventolin in Molly’s school bag.
Then Covid came along. And we were told, sensibly, that we were at increased risk and should take extra measures to protect ourselves. So we did. I got Covid anyway and was sick for months but Molly stayed well. Still, when things opened up we stayed in mostly. Too scared that I’d get it again and be sick for months (again) or that Molly would get it. Confident that as we were Group 6 we’d get the vaccine pretty quickly. How naïve were we.
The Lancet confirms asthmatics are at greater risk of hospitalisation and Long Covid. Now ignoring the personal cost, surely you’d think the government would do everything possible to protect the NHS? Keep hospitalisation low? But no, there are too many of us, so we got pulled out, with only the very severe, with a shiny new definition of severe asthma, prioritised for the vaccine.
The soundbite, the lie, that the vulnerable were all vaccinated has resounded across the media. Everyone quoting that asthmatics are at no greater risk of death. Death isn’t supposed to be the only measure, but for asthmatics apparently it is, and asthmatics remain the only group confirmed at risk of Long Covid. We’re not asking to be vaccinated before the most vulnerable, but rather before our healthy peers. The Flu Jab list seems a simple, sensible way to prioritise.
The data suggesting asthmatics aren’t at greater risk of death is, like so much early information, being questioned – after all, asthmatics followed the advice and stayed at home, protected themselves. Let’s be blunt – it doesn’t track to tell people with damaged lung function that Covid isn’t a bigger danger to them. I mean, come on, we take steroids to breath every day. And now, WHO have updated confirming all asthmatics are at risk.
You’d think the Lancet study would get some attention from the JCVI, you’d think that Labour and the Lib Dems would stand up for their vulnerable constituents. Let’s face it, removing over a million asthmatics to hit a PR sound bite about the vulnerable being vaccinated ought to be news worthy. But no…there’s silence.
A few MP’s are stepping up and asking questions – thank you Duncan Baker. Jo Woods has done great work pushing Vaccines for Asthmatics, The Allergy and Asthma Foundation in Scotland continue to fight for the return to Group 6. But the evidence of our increase risk is being reviewed, and quietly ignored.
We need returning to Group 6 for boosters, for young teens who are in key educational years, asthmatic university students living in halls, for adults going back to work – asthma is not a disease that follows a course. It flares, it can kill, it can be debilitating. The JCVI needs to reverse their decision, the info graph below (not my work – thank you @ArburyJane) shows all the studies confirming our risk.
This is no time to prioritise sound bites, or worry about U-turns.
This is the time to protect the vulnerable.
So what now? Well…everyone who is asthmatic, or has a family member who is asthmatic, please help by doing the following:
Write a short email to your MP, Keir Starmer, Ed Davey, Matt Hancock, the Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi, Boris Johnson, and Baroness Blackstone (the Chair of Asthma UK).
Keep it simple – I suggest something along these lines:
In light of the increased risk of hospitalisation and Long Covid, as identified by The Lancet, I’m asking for your support to convince the JCVI to return Asthmatics to Group 6 for the vaccination programme. We need to protect the NHS, the vulnerable and ensure the young with lung disease do not suffer. Please can you ask the JCVI why The Lancet report hasn’t resulted in a return to Group 6 for Asthmatics? Using the Flu Jab list would make this easy. WHO has confirmed Asthmatics at increased risk as well with no division based on medication taken.
It probably doesn’t need to be more than those few sentences and the same email can be sent to everyone. If you want to go wild, attach the info graph to drive the point home.
It’s time to fill politician’s inboxes – maybe then they will become interested. I’ve been vaccinated in my age category, Molly, due to her hospitalisation. But we need to campaign for all, and for the future.
This is a great, although very sad to read, article about the impact on Asthmatics of the vaccine change.
To find your MP – search here: https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP
For ease, their emails are: