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People with Long Covid Need Vaccine Boosters: Protecting the Vulnerable and Addressing Health Inequalities

The Covid-19 pandemic has left an enduring mark on countless lives across the globe. In England and Scotland alone, over 2 million people have Long Covid, and 600,000 people have lived with Long Covid for three years or more. Of these, 381,000 people’s lives are severely impacted, leaving them disabled and unable to work. These individuals experience a range of symptoms, from chronic, crushing fatigue and breathlessness to cognitive impairment, all of which dramatically affect their daily lives and ability to work as they once did. For them, Covid-19 is far from over. The risk of reinfection and the potential exacerbation of their symptoms make booster vaccines not just beneficial but essential.


Boosters are crucial in maintaining immunity against Covid-19, especially as the virus continues to mutate and new variants emerge. For those living with Long Covid, boosters help to prevent additional viral load, which can lead to more severe symptoms and further complications. Reinfection not only poses a risk to their physical health but also impacts their mental wellbeing, prolonging recovery and exacerbating existing health issues.


Families of people with Long Covid also play a pivotal role in their care and support. Therefore, it is equally important for family members to receive boosters. By reducing the likelihood of contracting and spreading the virus within the household, they can protect their vulnerable loved ones from additional exposure and potential worsening of their condition.


Despite the clear need for these vaccines, many people with Long Covid and their families face significant financial barriers. Few of these individuals are over 75 years old or classified as clinically extremely vulnerable, which means they do not qualify for free booster vaccines. Instead, they must bear the cost themselves. With the average price of a booster vaccine being £95, this expense can be a significant burden.


Many Long Covid sufferers are unable to work due to their condition, often relying on a single income or benefits to make ends meet. This financial strain is compounded by the additional medical expenses and the cost of managing their ongoing symptoms. For these families, paying for a booster vaccine is a daunting prospect, yet it is a necessary one to safeguard their health.


The financial barriers to accessing booster vaccines highlight a broader issue of health inequality in the UK. As the wait for NHS healthcare rises and access to essential services becomes increasingly dependent on one’s financial means, the gap between those who can afford to just about manage the cost of booster vaccines and those who cannot continues to widen. This disparity is particularly stark when considering the impact of Long Covid, a condition that disproportionately affects those who are already vulnerable.


The current system places an unnecessary burden on people and families who are least able to afford it. While some may argue that the cost of a booster is a small price to pay for protection, for many, it is simply unaffordable. This inequity not only undermines the health and wellbeing of those with Long Covid but also poses a public health risk by allowing the virus to spread more easily among those who are unprotected.


Where Do We Go from Here?


Addressing these health inequalities requires urgent action and a collaborative approach. Firstly, there needs to be greater recognition of Long Covid as a significant public health issue, with appropriate support and resources allocated to those affected. This includes ensuring that booster vaccines are accessible and affordable for all, regardless of their financial situation.


The government and healthcare providers must work together to subsidise the cost of boosters for people with Long Covid and their families. This could involve expanding the criteria for free vaccines or providing targeted financial assistance to those in need.


Additionally, raising awareness through clear messaging about the impact of Covid and the importance of boosters, as well as encouraging uptake among vulnerable populations, is crucial in mitigating the spread of the virus and protecting public health.


For the 2 million people living with Long Covid in England and Scotland, booster vaccines are not just a precaution; they are a lifeline. Ensuring that these vaccines are accessible and affordable is essential in preventing further health complications and reducing the burden on already strained families and the NHS. By addressing the financial barriers and health inequalities that currently exist, we can better protect our most vulnerable family members, friends and communities and work towards a healthier, more equitable society.

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