Extremely vulnerable Covid protectors still isolating 2 years later feel ‘abandoned’

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The covid protectors, who have been self-isolating against the virus for nearly two years, say they feel “abandoned” by the government.

ONS figures from the end of last year suggest that around 800,000 of the 3.7 million people classified as clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) continue to protect themselves despite declining support.

Retired project manager Jan has five autoimmune diseases, including antiphospholipid syndrome, a rare blood-clotting disorder, as well as bronchiectasis and asthma.

She claims a consultant told her there was a high chance of hospitalization and death if she contracted the virus.

Due to his conditions, Jan suffered adverse effects from two Covid vaccines and will not be able to have reinforcements.

The 70-year-old grandmother, from Whitby, North Yorkshire, was desperate for antivirals or monoclonal antibody infusion therapy, should she get infected, but has now been told she doesn’t qualify.

She got through the pandemic almost entirely alone at home, regularly calling Samaritans and other counseling services.

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Former substitute teacher Joanna has severe asthma and is immunosuppressed
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Joan Lever)

Joanna has to survive on her pension
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Joan Lever)

With her mental health deteriorating and feeling “really desperate,” she took a chance in the midst of the Omicron surge on Christmas Day and entered her daughter and 11-year-old granddaughter’s home for the first time after they were all tested.

“When I found out I don’t qualify for antivirals I thought, how can I live my life like this?” Jan told the Mirror.

“This is not life, two years in the house on my own with no hope that anything will change and I’m told all the time to ‘just live with it.’ It’s not about living with it for us, we’re the collateral damage. I feel absolutely abandoned.”

The shielding program officially ended in England on September 15, 2021, meaning those categorized as CEV were no longer advised to self-isolate.

However, people with such serious vulnerabilities as Jan are in “limbo” and, in many cases, cannot get antibody tests to check if they have any protection.

“With me, if I have covid, that will most likely be the end of it,” he said.

“I have low neutrophils, which makes it easy for me to get infections and difficult for me to recover from them. My condition hasn’t changed, my risk hasn’t changed.”

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She said: “I think they need to broaden the criteria for new antiviral treatments and address the fact that there are a considerable number of people who have fallen into the net.”

Jan added that CEVs are “desperately trying to gain access to other options and means of protection”, but advice and information remain “inconsistent”.

Fellow protector Joanna said the warning letters sent out during the pandemic “still play havoc with your anxiety.”

“I feel like we’ve been left behind. Boris has his agenda and I don’t think it’s ever been about protecting the vulnerable,” he continued.

The former substitute teacher, 64, from Shotley Bridge, County Durham, has severe asthma and is immunocompromised.

The mother of two was initially furloughed, but the agency she signed with eventually terminated her employment.

For a year, he was able to claim £74 a week at ESA, but now he survives on the money he saved for his retirement, and the Shielder food packs have also stopped.

Joanna, who is eligible for a fourth vaccine, has also sold the farmhouse where she spent much of the pandemic alone and downsized it, but says she “feels like the money will run out” before the pandemic is over.

“The economy is always going to be more important to a government like we have now than the people,” he continued, adding, “I have no choice but to move forward. What else can I do?”

Meanwhile, Diane has severe allergies, chemical sensitivities, and autoimmune conditions, as well as severe chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).

Medical Director, Professor Chris Whitty
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PENNSYLVANIA)

He said having the vaccine could lead to a relapse of some of his autoimmune conditions and anaphylactic shock.

He explained: “To get a vaccine, I would have to go into a resuscitation room with a defibrillator at hand and I just can’t take that massive risk.

“This is my only option, there is no other option than to totally protect myself.”

Diane, 63, from Merseyside, said the only visitor she has had in two years is a gas safety engineer.

Chris Whitty [chief medical officer] made it clear: no one would be left out. People who could not have the vaccines would have options, but there are no options. Nobody wants to know, there is nothing,” he said.

Diane, who described herself as very outgoing before the pandemic, admits the loneliness of isolation has been difficult.

Along with Jan and Joanna, he is a member of the Shielders United UK Facebook group, which the three say has helped them move forward.

However, they were shaken in the run up to Christmas when they learned that a member had taken their own life.

Diane said: “It really moved me. I’ve had dark thoughts at times as we go through the winter, when you haven’t seen a human being. That is the worst punishment you can inflict on someone.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We have issued public health advice for people whose immune system means they are at increased risk of serious outcomes from Covid-19. This advice remains in place.”

“Those previously considered clinically extremely vulnerable should follow the same instructions as the general public, but consider taking additional precautions to reduce the chance of contracting COVID-19.

“Vaccines are the best way we can protect ourselves from the virus and we continue to urge everyone who can to get going now.”

They went on to say that the government continues to monitor Omicron and other variants in an effort to better protect the most vulnerable, with those severely immunocompromised eligible for the third and fourth doses of the vaccine.

They added that the NHS is now also offering new antibody and antiviral treatments to those most at risk, while a million people are being sent home PCR test kits.

Click here for the latest government guidance for CEV or here for information on new antibodies and antiviral treatments.

For guidance on statutory sick pay, see here.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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