A group of 16 charities have joined forces to urge people with long-term health conditions, and their carers, to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
Diabetes UK chief executive Chris Askew said “the best protection against coronavirus is to get the vaccine and take whichever vaccine you are offered”, while African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT) co-founder Orin Lewis said he was backing the drive because decisions need to be made “with knowledge of the verified facts and the science behind the vaccine”.
The British Heart Foundation, Macmillan Cancer Support and Mencap are among those who are hoping to boost the uptake of the vaccine.
Asthma UK, British Liver Trust, British Lung Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Carers UK, Epilepsy Action, Kidney Care UK, Lupus UK, MS Society, Sickle Cell Society and the Terrence Higgins Trust have also pledged to promote the vaccine rollout.
The aim is for the charities to tap into their combined networks to give reassurance about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.
They will each feature a campaign video showing people in cohort 6 getting their jab on their individual channels, and will have speakers who are promoting the cause.
Since February 15, those in cohort 6 – which includes people with certain underlying health conditions and their carers – have been getting invites from their GPs to come forward for their first Covid-19 jab.
Cohort 6 covers 16 to 64-year-olds with certain long-term conditions identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation as being at higher clinical risk from Covid-19.
Those with chronic respiratory, heart, kidney, liver disease and neurological conditions, including MS and epilepsy, vascular disease, diabetes mellitus, immunosuppression, asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen, morbid obesity, severe mental illness, as well as sickle cell, lupus and those on GP learning disability registers are in this category.
Cohort 6 also includes carers who are eligible for a carer’s allowance, or those who are the sole or primary carer of a clinically vulnerable elderly or disabled person who is at an increased risk of dying with Covid-19.
Mr Lewis said: “Far too many lives have already been lost, however now there is a real opportunity for positive change especially on behalf of patients with immunosuppression systems linked to stem cell, blood and organ related disorders.
“We feel extremely passionately people should seriously consider protecting themselves, their loved ones and society at large.
“When they do make that decision, they need to ensure it’s an informed one based upon verified facts and not myths, fears and taboos.”
Carers UK chief executive Helen Walker pointed out unpaid carers have spent close to a year doing everything they can to carefully manage the risk of the virus to themselves and their older, disabled or severely ill relatives.
She said: “Those being called for the vaccine will bring many a huge sense of relief. It will mean some of the hardest-pressed carers will be able to access support with their caring role for the first time in many months.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said the backing of the charities at this stage is a “a great boost for the rollout which continues to show what we can achieve when we pull together as one”.
He said: “Their help, encouragement and links with communities next in line for the jab will help make sure everyone can get access to the life-saving protection the vaccine provides and help protect those with underlying conditions and their carers.”
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, who described the jabs as “our way out of this pandemic and offers the chance to protect yourself and others”, welcomed the support from the “trusted” charities.
He said: “I would like to thank them all for backing this life-saving campaign and offering their expertise and assistance to support the largest medical deployment in British history.”