A Radlett resident is furious over the government’s decision not to purchase potentially life-saving medication for high-risk COVID-19 patients.
The resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, has multiple sclerosis (MS), a lifelong condition that affects the brain and nerves. She still lives in fear of the virus because she says the medication she takes counteracts the effects of the COVID-19 vaccine.
She claims that after receiving five doses of the COVID-19 vaccination, the NHS tested her twice for antibodies but found none.
Evusheld is a drug created by AstraZeneca and is designed to protect vulnerable people against COVID-19 in cases where vaccines don’t work.
After meeting UK regulatory standards for safety, quality and effectiveness, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved Evusheld for use in the prevention of COVID-19 on March 17, 2022. However, neither the drug’s availability on the NHS nor privately has improved since then.
The resident said: “My life has not changed since we first got told about COVID-19.
“Our lives haven’t gone back to normal; I can’t go outside without having to worry. I’m cautious about everywhere I go.
“I’m not leading a life I want to live. If I got the vaccine, I could have six months of freedom and live my life normally. Evusheld will change my life.
“Surely it would cost more money to look after those who are immunocompromised with COVID-19 going into hospital than to give you the jab?”
A spokesperson for AstraZeneca said: “AstraZeneca has proactively provided all available data to support NHS winter access of Evusheld for UK patients. The same data has supported access in over 30 countries to protect the most clinically vulnerable against the ongoing risks of COVID-19. This includes the recent approval and purchase of 300,000 units by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
“In addition, real-world evidence has supported the continued use of Evusheld and its importance for immunocompromised patients, as recently recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its guidelines and prevention recommendations.
“We stand ready to supply Evusheld to the UK as soon as possible.”
When Evusheld was approved in March, Dr June Raine, MHRA chief executive, said: “After a careful review of the data, I am pleased to confirm that we have authorised another medicine to help protect against the effects of COVID-19.
“Evusheld is a pre-exposure prophylaxis treatment, meaning it is taken to prevent COVID-19 before the risk of acquiring infection. One dose has been found to provide long-lasting protection against this disease for up to six months.
“While the COVID-19 vaccines continue to be the first-line defence against COVID-19, we know that some people may not respond adequately to these vaccines and for a small number of individuals, COVID-19 vaccines may not be recommended for other reasons, such as a previous allergic reaction to one of the vaccine ingredients.”
A petition has been launched which at the time of writing has 18,322 signatures. To view the petition, visit petition.parliament.uk/petitions/611884
Oliver Dowden CBE, MP for Hertsmere, said: “It is my understanding that Evusheld has been conditionally authorised for COVID-19 prevention, but that the government has been advised that the data on the duration of protection offered by the drug against the Omicron variant is unclear. Evusheld will be submitted for a full appraisal by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, while officials will meet with AstraZeneca to ascertain whether any new data has emerged from other countries which should be considered.
“It is of course right that the efficacy of every treatment is thoroughly tested prior to its purchasing by the NHS. However, following contact from a constituent who raised the potential importance of Evusheld for those who do not respond to vaccines in the usual way and so still face severe restrictions on their daily lives, I understand these concerns and have raised them with ministers at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).”
A government spokesperson said: “Following a robust review of the available data, our clinical experts advise there is currently insufficient data on the duration of protection offered by Evusheld in relation to the Omicron variant and the government will not be procuring any doses at this time.
“We are determined to support the most vulnerable as we live with Covid and immunocompromised patients are a priority for other treatments, access to free tests and vaccination.”