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The UK Government Needs to Expand Covid-19 Vaccination This Winter: letter to Steve Barclay MP

Updated: Feb 11

Today Long Covid SOS has sent a letter to Secretary State for Health and Social Care Steve Barclay, urging the government to “properly scrutinise the recommendations on Covid-19 vaccination by the JCVI”, which restricts booster jabs to the over-65s, those with a limited number of underlying conditions and certain key workers. The letter has been published in the BMJ

The booster campaign in England will start earlier than planned to counter a new sub variant of Covid-19, however the vaccination rollout will still leave a large proportion of the population unprotected against Covid-19 and vulnerable to long term health impacts

The letter explains that:

  • The vast majority of people in the UK will have out of date protection this winter

  • Vaccines are currently the UK’s only defence against spread of infection, serious illness and new variants

  • Private vaccines are unlikely to be available this autumn and will in any case increase health inequalities

  • The NHS will be put under unnecessary pressure

  • As things stand, the only way to prevent Long Covid is to avoid a Covid-19 infection, but evidence shows that vaccines help reduce the numbers who go on to develop this condition. Many will be put at risk of long term ill health

In the UK it is now very difficult to avoid catching Covid-19: masks are not recommended, even in healthcare settings, and little if anything has been done to improve ventilation in public indoor places. We are not encouraged to test or stay away from others when infected. Without boosters, we are in danger of Covid-19 taking hold this winter.

Members and trustees of the charity were also appalled to read comments on ‘Post-Covid Syndromes’ in the JCVI report which:

  • Seek to minimise the impact of Long Covid

  • Suggest that there is not enough evidence to link the debilitating condition with a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection

  • Dismiss the effectiveness of vaccines in reducing the number of people who go on to suffer long term consequences

Here is the paragraph the JCVI included on ‘Post-COVID Syndromes’:

"There remains considerable uncertainty regarding the prevalence and health impact of sequelae reported following acute COVID-19 infection. Case-control studies have provided more robust data than the initial cohort studies, but the high prevalence of most of the reported persistent symptoms among cases and controls complicates any firm attribution of causality to the initial SARS-CoV-2 infection. Until more and better data are available, the impact of vaccination on the risk, progression and/or outcome of post-COVID syndromes remains difficult to assess or quantify objectively (references 6 and 7)."

These assertions fly in the face of a huge body of scientific research, and are even contradicted by the papers the JCVI cite to support their arguments. The letter explains that these comments are completely unjustified and not supported by evidence.

The decision taken by government, on the advice of JCVI, may save the NHS some cash in the short-term but leaving so many people with waning immunity is putting us in a very precarious situation. New, immune-evasive variants are already causing concern. Vaccines do protect people from going on to develop long-term ill health, this is well established. I find the JCVI’s comments on Long Covid deeply concerning and wonder why they are seeking to minimise a life-changing condition which affects many millions in the UK and worldwide” Ondine Sherwood, Co-founder of Long Covid SOS

“The link between SARS-CoV-2 infection and Long Covid is not and should not be in question over three years since the syndrome was first described. As well as health of individuals and the public, the economic impact of Long Covid should also be taken into account when planning population-level prevention.” Amitava Banerjee, Long Covid SOS Trustee and Professor of Clinical Data Science and Honorary Consultant Cardiologist, University College London

Read the letter below. A full copy including references is available here:

Update November 2023: we have now received a reply from Prof Wei Shen Lim at JCVI, available here

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