Calls for all those with asthma to be priority for Covid-19 vaccine
There are calls for all asthma sufferers in Wales, no matter how severe their symptoms, to be a priority for the Covid-19 vaccine.
There are more than 300,000 people with asthma in Wales and Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation Wales want people with all severity of the condition to be prioritised in the next phase of the rollout.
People with the most serious asthma will be, or have already been, vaccinated as part of category 6 or higher. However many with mild to moderate, well-controlled forms of the respiratory condition are not included in the top nine groups.
The Welsh Government has previously said they are following the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation's (JCVI's) advise that "individuals with mild to moderate asthma are not at increased risk from COVID-19 and not recommended for vaccination during the current phase of the programme.”
The JCVI have based their prioritisation decisions on the risk of mortality and serious disease, which is why some mild and moderate asthma sufferers are not considered to be in group 6.
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.
However 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.
Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation Wales claim people with moderate asthma who had been told they are clinically vulnerable to coronavirus are now confused.
As a result of this "confusion and disappointment", the charity is calling for everyone with asthma to be made a priority group for the vaccine moving forward.
Joseph Carter, Head of Asthma UK & the British Lung Foundation Wales, said: "We had expected most asthma suffers to be covered under the criteria for categories 4 and 6, but this has turned out not to be the case.
“People with asthma are not at greater risk of mortality from the Coronavirus, but the risk of hospitalisation and complications arising from their condition still places them at increased risk compared to those without asthma.
“It is only right that the Welsh Government prioritise all those with asthma in the next rollout of the vaccine. This will ensure that everyone with the condition gets their vaccine soon, alleviating concern and helping keep vulnerable people safe. We hope these calls will be listened to and adopted."
Priority group 6 includes everyone between 16 and 64 years old who has underlying health conditions, "which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality". This includes chronic respiratory diseases like "cystic fibrosis and severe asthma".
But those aged under 50 who have asthma and are not included in group 6 or above, will have to wait until phase two of the vaccine rollout as they are not in any of the nine top categories.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "Those with severe asthma are at increased risk from COVID-19 and are included in priority cohort 6.
"Since December, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that severe asthma is defined as requiring repeated use of oral corticosteroids or previously requiring hospital admission.
"They advise individuals with mild to moderate asthma are not at increased risk from COVID-19 and not recommended for vaccination during the current phase of the programme.”
More than 878,000 people in Wales have received their first vaccine so far and Welsh Government aim for all eligible adults to be offered a Covid vaccine by the end of July.
Those in the nine priority groups should be offered their initial jab by mid April.
That includes anyone aged over 50, everyone over the age of 16 with an underlying health condition, "which puts them at risk of serious illness" and unpaid carers who look after someone who is vulnerable to Covid.