This is when people with asthma could get the vaccine - and what counts as severe asthma
Millions of people in the UK have now received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
The vaccination programme is rapidly speeding up, with plans for the four top priority groups to receive either the Pfizer or Oxford jab by the middle of February.
Those who are most vulnerable to the virus are being inoculated first, which includes people with pre-existing health conditions.
Some people with asthma are included in this group - so when will asthmatics receive the vaccine?
Here is everything you need to know.
Why are people with asthma vulnerable to Covid?
Covid-19 is a disease which primarily affects the respiratory system, which means people with asthma could be more vulnerable to the virus than other people.
Those with moderate to severe asthma could be at a higher risk of getting seriously ill from coronavirus, especially as it can affect your nose, throat, and lungs.
There is also the chance Covid-19 could cause an asthma attack.
However, there isn’t any evidence that having asthma makes you more likely to catch coronavirus.
What is classed as severe asthma?
Someone with “severe asthma” has a specific type of asthma which doesn’t get better with the usual medicines, like a preventer inhaler, according to Asthma UK.
It is the most serious and life-threatening form of asthma.
Sometimes even if you take the medicines as prescribed, a different approach is needed to control symptoms and reduce the frequency of asthma attacks.
Around 4 out of 100 people with the condition have severe asthma, says the charity - roughly 200,000 people in the UK.
Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK’s in-house doctor, says: “We don’t understand yet why some people get asthma and some people get severe asthma.
“We know that each individual with asthma can have different triggers and a different chemical reaction in their airways.”
The charity is looking into what causes severe asthma and why it is much harder to control.
When will asthmatics get the vaccine?
The UK Government's current plan is to vaccinate the oldest and most vulnerable people first.
A list of nine high-priority groups which covers about 32 million people is being followed. This is:
- Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
- Everyone aged 80 and over, frontline health and social care workers
- People aged 75 and over
- Those aged 70 and over and the clinically extremely vulnerable
- People aged 65 and over
- People aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions
- People aged 60 and over
- People aged 55 and over
- People aged 50 and over.
Those who have severe asthma, and have received a letter during the pandemic instructing them to shield, fall into priority group four - the “clinically extremely vulnerable” category, also known as the shielding group.
If this is you, and you are under the age of 70, you can expect to receive your first jab before 15 February due to the plans to vaccinate the top four priority groups by then.
Invitations have already started to go out to the “clinically extremely vulnerable” group in England.
For everyone else with asthma, some will be in priority group six – people who are considered “at-risk”.
However there is still work to be done to identify who exactly will be in this group, and Asthma UK is urgently calling for more clarity from the government on who falls into this category.
There are plans to offer a vaccine to people in group six - along with all over-50s - by May.
The government is aiming to vaccinate all adults in the UK by the autumn.
Is the vaccine safe for people with asthma?
The Pfizer and Oxford vaccines have undergone extensive testing in clinical trials, including on those with underlying conditions, and scientists found no concerning side-effects.
The British Lung Foundation has confirmed that the jab is safe for people with lung conditions.
They said: "The vaccine has been tested on people with long-term conditions and on people from a range of age groups, including older people.
"The JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation)has decided it is safe for people with long-term conditions and that people who are high-risk should be prioritised to get the vaccine first.
"There is no reason to think the vaccination interacts with any medications."