Labour has warned the government that 500,000 immunocompromised people across the country are at risk of being forgotten following the coronavirus unlocking set to take place on July 19th, LabourList can reveal.
Vicky Foxcroft, the shadow minister for disabled people, has written to new Health Secretary Sajid Javid urging him to start clearly communicating with and properly supporting the group of clinically extremely vulnerable people.
16 health charities, including Versus Arthritis, Anthony Nolan, Blood Cancer UK and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, have joined together to call on the government to do more for those who are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed.
Research so far suggests members of this group do not get as high levels of antibodies from Covid vaccines as those with stronger immune systems. But there has been little advice given to the immunocompromised/suppressed as a result.
Foxcroft has asked Javid urgently for more information on the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines on immunocompromised people, and for the government to look into the use of antibody tests to provide reassurance to this group.
The Labour frontbencher has also asked for details of plans to provide additional support while the immunocompromised wait for trial results and if there is more evidence that the vaccine is less effective for them.
The shadow minister has already revealed that she is immunocompromised herself. She has repeatedly called on ministers to consider allowing access to antibody testing to indicate efficacy and level of protection from Covid.
Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, told Labour in parliament that Professor Harnden of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said “the problem with antibody testing is what it really tells us”.
According to The Guardian last week, Whitehall sources have suggested that the government hopes to publish data Foxcroft has been pressing for before the July 19th reopening, yet this is now just one week away.
Labour has said it supports the scheduled unlocking, but wants to keep certain measures in place, such as mandatory mask-wearing in public places and social distancing, and would like to see the return of testing in schools.
Below is the full text of Vicky Foxcroft’s letter.
Dear Secretary of State,
RE: Support for Immunocompromised People
I am writing to ask for more information on support immunocompromised people will be offered as the national lockdown restrictions are further eased on the 19 July. Can I also take this opportunity to welcome you to your position as Health Secretary.
With an estimated 500,000 immunocompromised people in England, clear communication and proper support will be crucial for this clinically extremely vulnerable group, especially given the lack of information on the effectiveness of the vaccines for this group.
Throughout the pandemic, immunocompromised people, including many disabled people, have felt like afterthoughts, especially due to poor communication from the government. As you will know, disabled people and people with long term health conditions have been disproportionately represented in those who have died from Covid-19, making up two-thirds of deaths to date.
I want to echo the call from the sixteen health charities, including Versus Arthritis, Anthony Nolan, Blood Cancer UK and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, who are calling for more to be done for those who are immunocompromised.
As a matter of urgency, can you please respond to the following questions:
- As a matter of urgency, will you share the results of the OCTAVE trial into the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines on immunocompromised people?
- Will you look into the use of antibody tests to provide reassurance to people who are immunocompromised?
- Will you set out whether ministers plan to provide additional support to people who are immunocompromised while we wait for trial results, and if there is evidence that the vaccine is less effective on immunocompromised people?
Can I implore you to learn the lessons of this pandemics and ensure clear communication with this group of clinically extremely vulnerable people, which has not always been the case. I look forward to your speedy response on this matter.
Vicky Foxcroft MP
Shadow Minister for Disabled People
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