Some asthma sufferers are being refused a Covid vaccine by GPs despite government guidance

By Helen Johnson
Friday, 5th March 2021, 9:28 am
Updated Friday, 5th March 2021, 9:29 am
Charity Asthma UK is now calling for GPs to follow the official guidance (Photo: Shutterstock)
Charity Asthma UK is now calling for GPs to follow the official guidance (Photo: Shutterstock)

The Covid-19 vaccination programme is now well underway, but for some people with asthma, confusion remains as to when they will receive their coronavirus vaccination.

According to the BBC, some of those with asthma who are eligible for a Covid vaccine are being refused it by some GPs who are not following the current government guidance.

Although an NHS England letter sent to GPs in the middle of last month said that those who have "ever had an emergency asthma admission" to hospital fall into priority group six - the group currently being vaccinated - some patients are now being told that a hospital admission within the past 12 months is required in order to be eligible.

Charity Asthma UK is now calling for GPs to follow the official guidance in order to make sure that those with asthma who need to be prioritised receive their vaccine when eligible.

Who falls under priority group 6?

A blog post written by Dr Andy Whittamore on Asthma UK reiterates that those who have had an emergency admission to hospital in the past due to their asthma should fall into group six.

Those who were sent a shielding letter fall into priority group four.

Dr Whittamore wrote: “There will be some people with asthma who will be included in priority group 6. These are people who have had 3 prescriptions for oral steroids over a 3-month period, or people who have ever had an emergency admission with their asthma.”

If you do not fall into either priority group four or six and are under the age of 50, then you will be vaccinated after the first nine priority groups, according to the Asthma UK.

In Scotland, you will be in priority group six if you have a recorded hospital admission due to asthma, or if you have had three prescriptions of oral prednisolone in the last six months – or 168 tablets in the last six months if you use the Chronic Medication Service.

However, Sonja Chenier, 47, from Colchester, told the BBC that although she has had three hospital admissions in the past 15 years and takes multiple medications daily for her asthma, her GP surgery told her she wasn't yet eligible for the vaccine because her hospital admissions weren't in the past 12 months.

Ms Chenier was instead told to expect a call for a vaccine along with her age group in around June.

"I was really shocked and so upset I put the phone down and sobbed," Ms Chenier said.

"I'm due to go back to work in schools next week and I'm absolutely scared witless.

"I'd just like some clear clarification on where the 'within the last 12 months' criteria has come from."

‘It's essential that GPs follow official guidance’

Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said that although GPs are trying to keep up with complex information regarding the Covid vaccination programme, it’s important that they follow the official guidance for those with asthma.

Ms Woolnough said: "We know that there are different interpretations of the official guidance from GP surgery staff and we're not sure why exactly this is happening.

"We know that GPs are very busy and trying to vaccinate so many people quickly, and keep on top of very complex daily new information about Covid-19 and the vaccination programme.

"But it's essential that GPs follow official guidance, so that people with asthma who need to be prioritised are protected now.''