The All Party Parliamentary Group on Vulnerable Groups to Pandemics has published an updated report and position statement for the COVID-19 inquiry. Its content is based on the feedback from 450 people representing patients, charities  (including Immunodeficiency UK), and clinicians. 

The main recommendations of the report are:

1) There must be a commitment to equity of protection from COVID-19

This means providing alternatives treatments if individuals do not gain sufficient benefit from vaccination. Clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people were denied access to the life-changing treatment Evusheld for more than a year when it was proving effective in more than 30 other countries. To ensure health inequalities are not compounded, there must be a prioritised rapid access pathway for new medicines to protect against covid; at a minimum NICE should provide access within 90 day of MHRA approval.

2) Transparency must be at the centre of Government decision-making

There should be a move away from closed-door committees where people affected most by decisions feel their voices are not adequately represented. There is a real sense among the CEV population that they are forgotten. Government must be willing to answer to public scrutiny and the welfare of the clinically vulnerable should now be a ministerial responsibility.

3) Data has the potential to empower effective decision-making and inform optimal Government strategies in response to pandemics

There should be an immediate commitment to publish regular metrics, with centralised data programmes designed to assess the effect of the pandemic on vulnerable and immunocompromised patients. CEV people are unable to assess their personal risk because accurate data on COVID-19 transmission is no longer available.

4) Communications with patients must be improved to reduce the significant mistrust in Government and health bodies

Decisions about vulnerable patients must be made in conjunction with patients. Patient groups should be represented in each scientific and policy meeting and be empowered to feed information back to their communities. Delayed, contradictory and confusing communications have led to suboptimal care. 

5) The entire research strategy for immunocompromised groups now needs to be re-launched

Ringfenced funding should be made available to ensure that an ongoing pipeline of new technologies and interventions are made available to people that need them efficiently and effectively. The UK led the world in vaccine development and the Government must now ensure that treatments are provided with similar vigour to the needs of CEV groups that still remain at excess risk from severe COVID-19.

Download the full report here and the associated report release statement here.

Posted 3rd March 2023