Thank you for contacting me about prioritisation of COVID-19 booster vaccines for people living with asthma.
The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that certain underlying health conditions increase the risk of morbidity and mortality from COVID-19.
Therefore it was imperative that during the first phase of the vaccination rollout, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – which advises the Government on immunisation programmes – identified people with severe asthma as a priority group for vaccination.
Thankfully on 14 September, the Government accepted the advice of the JCVI that booster vaccines should be offered to those most at risk from serious disease. This includes people who were vaccinated during Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout, all adults aged 50 and over, and all those aged 16 to 49 with underlying health conditions.
However I am seriously concerned by reports from Asthma UK that in the first phase of the vaccine rollout half of all people living with asthma – who are at increased risk from COVID-19 – failed to receive their first jab at the right time. This is completely unacceptable and highlights a clear falling of the Government to safeguard those most vulnerable to Covid.
I understand that many more people living with asthma missed out on getting their jab early because GPs could not identify them from health records.
Our NHS has been remarkable in rolling the vaccine out as quickly as possible and I pay tribute to all those involved in that effort. But the threat of COVID-19 variants reminds us that we need to continue to work hard to protect those most at risk from the virus.
Ultimately, it is the Government that takes final decisions on prioritisation. Therefore I have written to the Secretary of State to urge Ministers to respond to Asthma UK’s calls for a simple and effective system, such as using the free flu jab list, to identify those eligible for booster vaccines and ensure that people living with asthma who are most in need of a booster vaccine get it at the right time.
Please see a copy of this letter below: