Our position on Evusheld
13th May 2022
Since the Covid drug Evusheld was approved for use by MHRA, we’ve heard from the blood cancer community that one of their greatest concerns is the delay in its rollout across the UK. We wanted to address this directly and explain the work we’ve been doing around Evusheld, and how you can help push the Government to make it available to immunosuppressed people.
What is Evusheld?
Evusheld is a prophylactic drug for Covid-19, which means it is designed to prevent Covid infections. This is what distinguishes it from the treatments currently available, like Paxlovid and sotrovimab, which are taken after someone catches Covid. For more information about what Evusheld consists of, how it’s administered, and data on its effectiveness, see our previous article.
Evusheld is already available in countries like the United States, Canada, France, and Israel, although in some regions within these countries it can still be difficult or impossible to access.
If it’s been approved in the UK, why isn’t it available yet?
The clinical data on Evusheld’s effectiveness was gathered before the emergence of the Omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.2 and for several months it was unclear whether the drug would still be effective. But now there’s emerging evidence that Evusheld is likely to help prevent immunocompromised people becoming seriously ill.
After reviewing the available evidence, our position is that Evusheld should be made available for people who are not likely to mount any effective response to vaccines. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), however, tells us that they will not buy doses of Evusheld until the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has conducted lab-based research on its effectiveness against Omicron.
Why is this important for the blood cancer community?
If it’s effective, Evusheld can offer protection against Covid for people in whom vaccines haven’t elicited a strong response.
The Covid vaccines have been hugely important for people with blood cancer. While the level of protection people with blood cancer get from the vaccines tends to be lower than in those without blood cancer, additional vaccine doses tend to increase the level of protection for most people with blood cancer. We therefore still encourage people with blood cancer to get any vaccines they are offered. For information on how to access the doses you need, watch our video here.
Overall, however, we know the vaccines work less well in people with blood cancer. What’s more, we’re hearing from dozens of people who are eligible for Covid treatment, but haven’t been able to access them. This is why we’re asking the Government to make Evusheld accessible for people with blood cancer who have not responded well to the vaccines.
What are Blood Cancer UK doing?
The UKHSA research on Evusheld and Omicron is reportedly ongoing. We have been asking the Government to provide more transparency around when they will make a decision about whether to procure Evusheld, and how this decision is being made. We also want to understand what additional insights the UKHSA research will provide to already-existing lab-based research. So far, they have refused to provide us with this crucial information. So, we are calling on the Government to set out a clear plan and timeline, including the criteria they are using to review Evusheld and how they will determine eligibility.
The Government should not use the lack of certainty about how effective Evusheld is against Omicron as an excuse for not buying it. And it needs to act quickly – every day that it delays making a decision, more vulnerable people are being put at risk.
What can I do to help?
We would like to request your help with this – we’ve written a template letter that you can use to send to your MP asking them to write to the Secretary of State.
You can find out who your local MP is and their contact details using the find your MP website.
It’s just a template, so feel free to personalise it and make any changes you wish so that it reflects your opinions and concerns. If you send a letter to your MP about Evusheld, we’d love to hear about it.
You can let Victoria (our Covid-19 Policy Officer) know at [email protected] with the subject line I wrote to my MP.
While the Government so far has refused to give us the information our community needs, we hope that these letters will show them how important this issue is to people living with blood cancer.
Coronavirus and blood cancer
Coronavirus information for people affected by leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma or any blood cancer.