Stem cell transplant patients are being denied vital Covid vaccines despite guidelines stating they must be given an additional jab after their treatment wipes out pre-existing protection from life-threatening illnesses.
People who receive stem cell transplants effectively have their immune system replaced, meaning they need to get all their vaccinations again, including childhood immunisations and Covid-19 jabs.
The Covid-19 Green Book, which features the latest information on vaccination procedures, states: Individuals who have received a bone marrow transplant after vaccination should be considered for a re-immunisation programme for all routine vaccinations and for Covid-19.
For example, a stem cell transplant patient who received both their Covid jabs before their treatment would need a further two or three jabs followed by a booster to protect them against the virus.
Some patients who are immunosuppressed were told to have a third vaccine following their initial first two doses, followed by a booster jab and stem cell patients will need the same level of protection after their treatment.
But despite the official guidance, patients are reporting difficulties in getting the life-saving jabs because their medical records wrongly state that they are ineligible.
Mark Davies, 54, who had a stem cell transplant as part of his treatment for myeloma, a type of blood cancer, earlier this year, received two doses of the Covid vaccine before the procedure.
His consultant advised him to get vaccinated against Covid again once he had recovered from the transplant as his condition means he is at high risk of getting seriously ill from the coronavirus.
But when Mr Davies tried explaining the situation to his GP, they would not schedule him in to be re-vaccinated.They were just sort of adamant that the computer says no, Mr Davies told i.
After numerous phone calls and emails, he was able to book an appointment for another jab, but only because he had become eligible for a booster at the time.
Research shows that people with compromised immune systems may not mount a full response to Covid-19 vaccination and therefore are likely to be less protected than the general population.
Bone marrow transplant patient Tony Capon, 72, needs to get all his Covid-19 jabs again. But despite a letter from his consultant, getting re-vaccinated has been a challenge.
He says: I was completely frustrated by this whole process and reaching the point where it was quite clear to me that people that were supposedly trying to sort this out were going to get to the end of the road.
The GP practice suggested that I walk into the big vaccination centre. I didnt really want to go there because being so vulnerable, I didnt really want to walk through the whole shopping centre and go into this place. But I thought this may be the only way Im going to get vaccinated, so I telephoned them on Sunday and booked an appointment for a booster vaccine.
Together with my wife, we have now been in some form of self isolation for 21 months. There were just two small periods when we did venture out in the summer of 2020 when we all thought things were so much better. Id already had two vaccines at that point.
We havent seen our grandchildren, aged four and eight, in the flesh for two years. Just three weeks ago, when we were doing a FaceTime call, my four-year-old grandson turned to his dad and said he didnt know who I was.
We want to go out, we want to see our grandchildren but weve been stuck at home all this time.
As a result, the need to get vaccinated is of even greater importance for people like Mr Davies, who was among those initially prioritised for the first Covid-19 jabs.He said he fears he may have to shield again if he is unable to get re-vaccinated.Its really scary. Inevitably, you feel extremely vulnerable.
I absolutely took the view that Im not going anywhere, not seeing people outside. And I think its exhausting. Youve been through a fairly big and quite traumatic procedure and, fortunately, seem to be recovering from that, but youve then got this challenge.
Myeloma information nurse specialist at Myeloma UK, Ellen Watters, said the situation people like Mr Davies were facing was truly devastating and unacceptable.
She said: These patients have extremely weakened immune systems and any protection they may have received from previous COVID-19 vaccines is now gone. The people were speaking to feel theyve exhausted every possible avenue and are now being forced to self-isolate indefinitely.
In addition to myeloma, stem cell transplants, also known as bone marrow transplants, are used to treat a range of conditions. These include:
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