Over the past month, The Mail on Sunday has told of NHS errors that mean many of the half a million Britons at high risk from Covid are missing out on a vital third vaccine dose.
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 meant to be offered eight weeks after the second dose.
The programme was due to commence at the start of September, and just last week a major British study concluded people with cancer, particularly blood cancer, have low protection against the Delta variant but will benefit from a third dose.
But our reports have revealed that GPs and other healthcare staff across the country are unaware that this group should be first in line for a jab, and dismiss the NHS invitations sent via text or post 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.
Many experts, including Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, have questioned whether this group really need another jab at all, given the fact their protection against severe disease is likely to be high and the fact that others are so much more in need.
Last week we issued an urgent plea to health chiefs to resolve the crisis by allowing vaccine centres across the UK to accept an NHS letter or text as proof of eligibility and act as a ‘passport’ to the third 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 meant to be offered eight weeks after the second dose (Pictured: Health Secretary Sajid Javid)
I’ve had four transplants and still can’t get the third Covid jab
Deborah Duval, 62, is desperate for a third Covid jab as her medication makes her much more susceptible to the effects of Covid
Diabetic Deborah Duval has had four organ transplants. To stop her body rejecting them, she takes strong drugs that suppress her immune system – but that puts her at high risk if she catches Covid.
The 62-year-old charity worker from Cornwall says: ‘I am incredibly frustrated at the difficulty of accessing a medicine I’ve been told I need.
‘I had my most recent transplant – my pancreas – in 2008, due to complications caused by type 1 diabetes. Since then I have taken medication that leaves me like an open door to infection.
‘And yet despite my letter telling me I need a third dose, when I called my GP two weeks ago they said they can’t book me in for an appointment. They’re not doing it, apparently.
‘I could, however, try my local vaccination centre, where hundreds of people queue up for two hours outside every day, and hope they know what a third primary dose is.
‘Lots of people I know have been turned away. I know too many other transplant patients who have lost their lives to this virus despite having the jabs, so I don’t want to risk queuing up with hundreds of people.
‘I don’t socialise with other people and I go to the supermarket as little as possible. I’ve been working from home for the entire pandemic, but I’d like to get back to normal and go back in at least once every few weeks.
‘It’s a ridiculous situation. The Government is shouting at everyone to go out and get jabbed, but those of us who need it the most can’t get it. Clearly, they can’t be too bothered about our safety.’
Paula White, of Essex: ‘We are so angry, worried and stressed. My husband Steve is extremely vulnerable.
‘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 in hospital last Christmas.
‘The hospital tells us he must have his third dose as soon as possible, and to ask the GP or 119. But 119 said call the GP, and the GP said they can’t book us in.
‘We’ve kept ourselves isolated but this is existing, 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 has leukaemia, hasn’t 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, 62, East Susse: ‘I am losing the will to live! I got a text telling me to book an appointment. I called 119, pressed this, pressed that, held on the phone and then got cut off.
‘I called my GP, who gave me the number of 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 illness, you don’t need any extra obstacles in your daily life!
‘I imagine a lot of people would have given up by now.’
Jennifer Quinnell, 74, Watford: ‘The doctor’s receptionist told me there is no third dose.
‘When I pointed out she was wrong, and I had an NHS letter stating otherwise, I was told not to get agitated.
‘How could they stonewall me? It’s like being met with a brick wall. I called 119 who said they would get someone to contact me. It’s scandalous to say the least.
‘My health is at stake and I am trying to follow the expert advice and keep myself safe.’
n THIS is a disgrace and will cause deaths.
Margaret Johnson, 74, Nottingham: ‘Our wonderful NHS? I think not. My husband has prostate cancer and takes high doses of steroids to treat a serious skin disease.
‘He has got his text message telling him to go for a third jab, but the GP surgery knew nothing about it.
‘The hospital then said they’d write to everyone in two weeks.
‘The Government is asking people over 50 who are five months down the line to book boosters. How can this be?’
Patricia Clarke, 77, Ipswich: ‘I am so glad I’m not alone in my frustration.
‘My letter told me I could go to any vaccination centre or pharmacy to get the third dose. I phoned our local pharmacy, which had not heard of the third primary dose, was sceptical about my NHS letter and then said it couldn’t do it.
‘Another pharmacy said it wasn’t doing any jabs and that my letter was misleading.
‘I tried the online booking system, which invited me to book my booster.
‘Tomorrow, I shall try again with local pharmacies.
‘If unsuccessful, I shall have to do a 20-mile trip to another pharmacy, and hope that it knows about it.’
I won’t see my grandkids until I’ve had third jab
Anita Evans (pictured right), fears getting Covid due to blood cancer and a genetic blood condition
Anita Evans, pictured with her husband John, is a 66-year-old retired finance manager from the West Midlands who has blood cancer and a genetic blood condition.
She says: ‘The NHS sent me a letter two weeks ago, telling me I need my third dose.
‘It just frightens the life out of you – it says the two jabs might not have worked, so I need another one, but doesn’t say how to get it.
‘My GP said to ring the place where I had my first two vaccines, but the receptionist there said she hadn’t seen or heard of the third primary dose or the letter I’d received.’
She adds: ‘Surely someone in the NHS knows what people like me should do about this. I called my GP again the next day and they said, ‘We’re compiling a database of people who are eligible for the third dose, and you will hear soon.’
‘Meanwhile, I feel as if my husband and I are living in a box. I’m frightened to death of going anywhere in case I catch Covid. I don’t go out of the house unless it’s for a short walk, and I certainly won’t go to the supermarket.
‘Everyone else is allowed to go about their business, or get their booster doses. I’d just like to see my grandchildren, whom I’ve seen only once in two years. I want nothing more than to get together at Christmas, but with no sign of this vaccine on the horizon, sadly I don’t see that happening.’
Anonymous: ‘My daughter, who is 38, had a double lung transplant in January 2020. We have been trying to get a third vaccine dose since mid-September.
‘The GP’s surgery had never heard of it. The hospital consultant thought it was a booster and said she could only have it in a few months’ time.
‘We are going round in circles trying to protect her, and it is wearisome. To top it all off, her brother, who she lives with, has tested positive for Covid. She’s been forced to leave home for two weeks to keep herself safe.
‘What are we supposed to do?’
David Mckenzie, 79, Fife: ‘I am receiving treatment for blood cancer and am worried that somehow I’ve been missed off the list.
‘I have had no word about an appointment, but my wife, who is younger and healthy, is due to receive her booster this week. Could you please help?’
Anonymous: ‘I am a transplant patient and haven’t been invited to have my third dose yet.
‘I tried to book online for a booster but was told I wasn’t eligible. I rang 119 and asked, in light of the guidance, to book my injection, and was told I had to wait until six months and one week. It’s very frustrating.’
Patricia Little, 79, Merseyside: ‘This is a fiasco. My GP surgery, when I asked to book in for my third primary dose, said: ‘We are not dealing with anything to do with Covid.
‘119 says I’m not eligible, even though I am on steroids for a muscle condition called polymyalgia rheumatica, and I had a text from the NHS.
‘I do not have a consultant at the moment, so can’t ask the hospital about it. I can’t get any further, so I’ll just have to wait for a booster.’
Joan Borland, 71, Norfolk: ‘My sister just passed away from Covid after having two jabs, and I can’t help but wonder whether if she’d had the third jab, she might be still here.
‘I take immune-suppressing drugs and was told there isn’t anywhere on the system to record the third vaccine.
‘It seems like an alien concept to healthcare staff. Compromised people have done everything the Government requested, yet it seems we are again the forgotten ones.’
Anonymous: ‘Someone in the NHS needs to sort all this out.
‘I recently had chemotherapy for bowel cancer, and received a text and a letter from the NHS to go to my GP or consultant for a third jab, but the doctors say that they ‘don’t do it’.
‘Someone from 119 said I am not eligible and my consultant didn’t know anything about it. It’s all so confusing.’