"Shielding is ending. Can our family go back to normal?"
This April, shielding is pausing and lockdown restrictions are starting to ease. But what does this actually mean for households where someone has blood cancer? We put the question to our Support Services Team.
My partner has blood cancer and we’ve been super careful over the past year, which has been difficult for the whole family. Our kids are back at school now and it seems shielding is officially ending. But can anything change for us as lockdown eases? I’m worried about carrying on with all the restrictions, but equally scared of taking risks. Even after a second vaccination we don’t know how much protection my partner will have – should we get an antibody test?
It’s sounds like you’ve been under a lot of strain, and that the national situation getting better isn’t immediately going to make you feel any less worried. But you should certainly take a moment to give yourselves credit as a family for managing to get through the last year and protecting the person you love.
The question of whether you can start living a more normal family life is tied up with the level of risk to your partner as lockdown eases, so we’ll talk about that first.
The risk from schools reopening
As you know, the first big change to lockdown has been schools reopening. You may be worried that having your kids back at school will increase the risk to your partner. Remember that there are protective measures in place as there were last autumn, such as increased attention to cleaning and hand-washing, separate entrances and one-way systems round the school, and classroom bubbles. There are new measures on top of that as well, including more testing in schools and more emphasis on wearing face masks in secondary schools.
Of course these things don’t completely remove the risk of your children being in school, but they do lower it. There are precautions you can take at home too, like washing hands and changing your children’s clothes as soon as they come in from school, and keeping their school clothes separate from the ones they wear at home.
We have more information on coronavirus and school, which you might find helpful. Recent research suggests that infection rates in UK schools mirror rates in the community, so if local infection rates are low, they should be low in schools too.
The risk in the community
As more and more people get the vaccination, the risk of coronavirus in the community will get lower. The vast majority of adults will have been vaccinated at least once by July, which will reduce the spread of coronavirus and help to keep numbers down. You could take a view on your partner’s level of risk by keeping an eye on the number of cases in your immediate area, which you can do by entering your postcode on this government coronavirus tracker.
We have more information about understanding your partner’s level of risk. Remember too that your healthcare team should be able to give you more personal advice about risk based on your partner’s condition and their treatment, if they’re currently having any. You may also find it helpful to read our page on coronavirus guidance for adults at high risk.
How much protection the vaccination gives
It’s a question a lot of people with blood cancer are asking – how much protection will the vaccine give us? Unfortunately, it’s a difficult one to answer. Doctors think that it may give increased protection, but probably not as much as for someone whose immune system is working normally. Research is under way to answer this question, but it will take time to get the results.
This is obviously frustrating. We know some people are arranging antibody tests either through their healthcare team or privately in the hopes of getting useful information about their own situation. It’s entirely your choice whether you want to consider this: our blog on antibody tests will give you more information about the limitations of the test, and which type of test to get if you decide to go ahead.
Household contacts can now get the vaccine
One thing to highlight is that the government and NHS in England and Wales are now saying that people who live with someone with a history of blood cancer can be prioritised for the vaccine. This is good news because there’s evidence that the vaccination lowers the chance of passing coronavirus on to other people. If you haven't already been vaccinated, you and anyone in your household aged 16 or over can book a vaccination through your GP. See our information about how household contacts can get the vaccine.
Talk to us
It’s a difficult time for families affected by blood cancer. On the one hand, there’s the future hope of returning to a normal life, but on the other, concerns about lockdown easing. It can often help to talk things through with someone outside the family, so please do call us on 0808 2080 888 or email [email protected].
Find out more about supporting someone with blood cancer. Here's our full list of questions on topics you may find helpful.
Worried about anything or have questions?
If you have any questions, worries, or just need someone to talk to, please don't hesitate to contact our Support Services Team via phone or email.