The Mail on Sunday revealed that the NHS has made many mistakes over the past month. This means that many of the half million Britons who are at high risk of contracting Covid have missed a crucial third dose of vaccine.
Unlike the booster jab, the third dose is offered to people with immunity problems – caused by things such as blood cancer, organ transplants or taking potent arthritis medication – that make two doses of the vaccine less effective. It should be given eight weeks following the second dose.
The programme was scheduled to start at the beginning September. A major British study found that people with cancer, particularly blood, have low protection against the Delta variant. However, they will benefit from a second dose.
Our reports revealed that GPs across the country don’t know that this group should be the first to get a jab. They also dismiss the NHS invitations sent by text or postal mail to patients.
Meanwhile, Ministers continue to urge healthy over-50s to come forward for a booster – given six months after their second dose – to top up antibody levels ‘just in case’ they have begun to wane.
Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert and many other experts have questioned the need for another jab in this group, given their likely protection against severe illness and the fact that they are likely to be more vulnerable than others.
Last week, we appealed to the health chiefs for help in resolving the crisis. We asked them to allow vaccine centres in the UK to accept a letter or text from the NHS as proof of eligibility and act ‘passport’ to the 3rd jab.
But, as the hundreds of letters sent to The Mail on Sunday since then show, the problem is still going on – with patients left ‘furious’, ‘desperate’ and feeling as if they’ve been forgotten.
Here we’re printing some of their words of desperation, in the hope that someone in charge will finally listen… and act.
Unlike the booster jab, the third dose is offered to people with immunity problems – caused by things such as blood cancer, organ transplants or taking potent arthritis medication – that make two doses of the vaccine less effective. It’s supposed to be given eight weeks after the first dose. (Pictured courtesy of Health Secretary Sajid Javid).
Paula White, Essex:“We are so angry and worried. My husband Steve has a very vulnerable personality.
‘He has two types of cancer – bowel and multiple myeloma – and is currently undergoing intensive chemotherapy.
“He’s had major surgery twice and caught Covid at the hospital last Christmas.
‘The hospital says he must get his third dose as soon possible and that he should ask the GP or 119. 119 people said to call the GP and the GP said that they couldn’t book us in.
“We have kept ourselves isolated, but this is existence, not living.”
Joanna Slum (73), Midlands: ‘My GP surgery laughed when I called to book in for the third primary dose, and said as they know nothing about it, they can’t help.
‘At least I’ve received a letter from the NHS telling me that I qualify – I am steroid-dependent due to arthritis.
“My husband, who is afflicted with leukaemia, has never had one.
‘So that’s another year we won’t be able to go to the panto with our grandchildren – with Covid levels high, it’s not worth the risk.’
Helen Osborne, East Susse, 62: ‘I am losing will to die! I received a text from them requesting that I book an appointment. I called 119, and pressed this, pressed the that, and held the phone until I was cut off.
“I called my GP who gave me the number to a chemist. The chemist said the third dose is the same as the booster – but that’s not what the NHS letter said.
“When you have a chronic disease, you don’t need any additional obstacles in your daily lives!”
“I imagine a lot more people would have given in by now.”
Jennifer Quinnell, 74, Watford: ‘The doctor’s receptionist told me there is no third dose.
“When I pointed out that she was wrong and I had a letter from the NHS stating otherwise, I received a warning not to get too excited.
“How could they stonewall you?” It’s like being confronted with a brick wall. I called 119 and they said they would contact me. It’s shocking to say the least.
“My health is at danger and I am trying to keep myself safe by following the expert advice.”
n THIS is a disgrace that will cause death.
Margaret Johnson, 74. Nottingham:Our wonderful NHS? I doubt it. My husband has prostate carcinoma and is on high doses of steroids for severe skin conditions.
“He received his text message directing him to get a third jab. But the GP did not know about it.
“The hospital replied that they would write to everyone in two days.
“The Government is asking people older than 50 who are at least five months to book boosters. How is this possible?
Patricia Clarke, 77, Ipswich: ‘I am so glad I’m not alone in my frustration.
“My letter informed me that I could go to any pharmacy or vaccination centre to get the third dose. I called my local pharmacy, who had not heard about the third primary dose and was skeptical about my NHS letter.
“Another pharmacy stated it wasn’t performing any jabs and that my correspondence was misleading.
“I tried the online booking system and was invited to book my booster.
“Tomorrow, we will try again with local pharmacies.
“If I am unsuccessful, I will have to make a 20-mile trip and visit another pharmacy. I hope it knows about it.”
Anonymous‘My 38-year old daughter received a double transplant in January 2020. Since mid-September we have been trying to get the third vaccine dose.
‘The GP had never heard about it. It was thought by the hospital consultant to be a booster, and she said she could only get it in a few months.
“We are going around in circles trying to save her, and it is exhausting. To make matters worse, her brother, whom she shares a home with, has been tested positive for Covid. She was forced to leave her family for two weeks to ensure her safety.
“What are we supposed do?”
David Mckenzie, 79, Fife‘I am undergoing treatment for blood Cancer and am concerned that I might have been left off the waiting list.
‘I haven’t heard anything about an appointment but my wife, who has a better health and is younger, will receive her booster this coming week. Could you please help?
Anonymous‘I am currently a transplant patient, and have not been invited for my third dose.
“I tried to book online a booster but was denied. I called 119 and asked for guidance. I was told that I had to wait until six and one week to book my injection. It’s very frustrating.
Patricia Little, 79, Merseyside‘This is an embarrassment. My GP said to me when I asked for my third primary dosage: ‘We aren’t dealing with anything to do the Covid.
‘119 states that I’m not eligible despite the fact I am on steroids for a condition called polymyalgia. I also received a text message from the NHS.
“I don’t have a consultant at this time, so I can’t ask about it at the hospital.” I can’t go any further so I’ll have to wait for a booster.
Joan Borland (71), Norfolk:My sister passed away in Covid, after she had received two jabs. I can’t help but wonder if she might still be here if her third jab was given.
“I take immune-suppressing medication and was told there wasn’t any place on the system that could record the third vaccine.
“It seems alien to healthcare staff. Although the Government has asked for everything, it seems that the government is still asking for the help of those with compromised health.
Anonymous: ‘Someone in the NHS needs to sort all this out.
‘I just had chemotherapy for bowel carcinoma. I received a text and a written reminder from the NHS to visit my GP for a third jab. However, the doctors have said that they ‘don’t do this’.
“Someone from 119 told me I was not eligible, and my consultant didn’t know anything about it.” It’s all confusing.