People with underlying conditions including cancer, diabetes and heart disease are being encouraged to come forward for a Covid-19 vaccine by leading UK health charities in an open letter published today (Sunday 14th March 2021).

Frontline charities, including Mencap, Diabetes UK and Lupus UK, have asked those with underlying medical conditions, their carer and those with learning disabilities on their GP register, to book a vaccination to protect themselves and those around them from from coronavirus.

People in cohort 6 have been prioritised for the vaccine because they have conditions that mean they are more likely to become seriously unwell from coronavirus.

More than half of those in cohort 6 have already received their first dose of the vaccine and it's hoped that the charities' letter - alongside text messages from the NHS - will help to increase take up further among those in this at-risk group.

The charities who signed the open letter are among 22 who have joined together in partnership to reassure those they support about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

GP services already have been contacting this cohort but those who have not yet received a letter can get a quick and convenient appointment at a vaccination centre or community pharmacy by using the national booking system or calling 119. The NHS have sent text messages to people in this group with a link so they can book their appointment.

The vaccine is safe and effective and very few people are advised not to have it. However, if you have any concerns, you can discuss these if you book over the phone, or with a health professional at your appointment.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

"The backing of the charities who work every day to support those who are entitled to a jab as part of cohort 6 is a great boost for the vaccine rollout and shows what we can achieve when we pull together.

"This open letter is a hugely important way to reassure those with underlying conditions, and their carers, of the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

"The charities' support for this national vaccine effort is invaluable in encouraging more people to come forward and helping us to save lives."

These vital charities support those included in priority vaccination categories, including cohort 6 which covers individuals aged 16 to 64 with certain long-term conditions identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) as being at higher clinical risk from Covid-19.

Underlying health conditions faced by people in cohort 6 include chronic respiratory, heart, kidney, liver disease and neurological conditions, including multiple sclerosis (MS) and epilepsy, stroke, vascular disease, diabetes mellitus, immunosuppression, due to a health condition or treatment, asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen, morbid obesity, severe mental illness, as well as sickle cell, lupus and those on GP learning disability registers.

Cohort 6 also includes carers who are eligible for a carer's allowance, or those who are the sole or primary carer of an elderly or disabled person who is at increased risk of Covid-19 mortality and therefore clinically vulnerable.

Minister for Vaccines, Nadhim Zahawi, said:

"We have already given a first dose of the vaccine to more than half of those in cohort 6 and I ma grateful to the charities who are encouraging more people in that group to come forward.

"The vaccine is our way out of this pandemic and offers the chance to protect yourself and others - that's why it's vital that people get their jab.

"This open letter should help to reassure those with any concerns that the vaccine is safe and supported by more than twenty of our most trusted charities.

"I would like to thank them all for backing this life-saving campaign and offering their expertise and assistance to support the largest medical deployment in British history."

The organisations which have signed up so far to become members are:

  • African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT)
  • Anthony Nolan
  • Asthma UK
  • British Heart Foundation
  • British Liver Trust
  • British Lung Foundation
  • Cancer Research UK
  • Carers UK
  • Diabetes UK
  • Epilepsy Action
  • Kidney Care UK
  • Kidney Research UK
  • Lupus UK
  • Macmillan Cancer Support
  • Mencap
  • MS Society
  • National Kidney Federation
  • Rethink Mental Illness
  • Sickle Cell Society
  • Stroke Association
  • Terrence Higgins Trust
  • Versus Arthritis