Covid vaccine: Millions of asthmatics not prioritised in next stage of rollout

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Stacey Foster

People whose asthma is under control are not being prioritised in the Covid vaccine rollout as it opens up to more priority groups.

As more than 15 million people in the UK have received their first dose of a Covid vaccine, the government will be opening up the vaccine rollout to more people, including those who are classed as "clinically vulnerable".

The clinically vulnerable group includes people with similar conditions to those in the clinically extremely vulnerable group (who should have already been offered vaccines), but their conditions may be less severe. Within this group, people with severe asthma are included, but not all asthmatics.

Severe asthma patients are those who have received a shielding letter (classed as "clinically extremely vulnerable"), those who regularly take steroid tablets/liquid, or those who have been admitted to hospital in the past, the government clarified in its advice to public health professionals.

This has led to confusion as previous government guidance suggested steroid-inhaler users would be prioritised. There is also confusion as the NHS lists non-severe asthma patients as being "clinically vulnerable".

According to Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK's in-house GP, for most people with well-controlled asthma, data suggests there is no increased risk of death from coronavirus.

Matt Hancock has pledged that all UK adults will be offered a Covid vaccine by autumn Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

And the main purpose of the early phases of the vaccination programme is to reduce Covid-19 deaths.

He wrote in an online blog: "Because of this, not everyone with asthma will be in the first nine priority groups. Your risk might be increased by other factors, such as age.

"There will be some people with asthma who will be included in priority group six. These are people who have had three prescriptions for oral steroids over a three-month period, or people who have ever had an emergency admission with their asthma."

A study has also suggested that asthma patients could be at an increased risk of developing long Covid - when patients have symptoms lingering way after contracting the virus.

Only people with severe asthma are prioritised for the vaccine Credit: PA

More than 15 million people in the UK have received their first jab. This includes the "clinically extremely vulnerable", care home residents and workers, people over the age of 70 and frontline health and social care workers.

From Monday, people in the "clinically vulnerable" category and people aged 65 to 69 will be invited to get the Covid vaccine.

By the time all nine priority groups have been vaccinated, 32 million people should have been offered to have the vaccine - nearly half of the UK's population of 67 million people.