A new campaign is launching today in the UK to raise awareness of the #Forgotten500k and their families, many of whom are still living restricted lives at huge risk of covid-19. Around 500,000 immunocompromised people across the UK are at higher risk of contracting the virus because their weakened immune systems make them less likely to respond well to vaccines. Many are still protected, still isolated, still unable to work, see friends or hug loved ones. Yet their calls are not heard.

Patient groups, charities and clinicians are urging the Prime Minister and Health Secretary to reverse a decision made under their predecessors to deny vulnerable patients access to an important treatment: Evusheld.

Deployment of Evusheld is urgently needed this winter to help protect immunosuppressed people from covid-19 as we see rates rise again. This drug would allow this group to regain a higher standard of living. Currently, the UK is at odds with more than 32 other countries that have approved the drug and have already been months in their rollout schedule. Yet the UK government still won’t make it available on the NHS this winter.

The #Forgotten500k kicks off with a new national advertising campaign created today by The&Partnership, kicks off with a series of events and activities that includes a special Crisis What Crisis? a silent vigil in Parliament Square and a “Think In” by Tortoise Media.

The campaign empowers #Forgotten500k to be seen, to connect and to be heard through their personal stories. The objective is to change the government’s decision.

Professor Martin Eve, PHD, Evusheld UK Fellow, explained: “Clinically vulnerable people in the UK have been promised protection. Instead, they were abandoned and forgotten. While the rest of the world takes care of its immunocompromised using Evusheld, the UK is lagging behind without delivering. Our patients need protection now and the government’s current schedule is simply not enough. Our members are leading intolerably restricted lives, will suffer the mental health effects of 1,000 days of isolation for years to come, and are dying at far higher rates than the general population with Covid-19. The Secretary of State for Health has a clear answer: get Evusheld, protect the vulnerable and ease the pressure on the NHS. »

Campaign activity to note:

  • Monday, October 17 / National advertising campaign

Advertising launched in [The Times, Daily Mail, Evening Standard, Metro, Telegraph, The Sun, Guardian, The London I]. The ad creative was designed pro bono by The&Partnership in collaboration with patients, charities and clinicians with media secured by mSix&Partners.

Guests Professor Martin Eve and Dr Lennard Lee chat with host Andy Coulson about the campaign and the lives of the Forgotten 500,000.

  • Wednesday, October 19 / Westminster Advertising

A publicity van will drive around Westminster with powerful messages addressing the government. The ad creative was designed pro bono by The&Partnership in collaboration with patients, charities and clinicians. Professional photos will be shared with the media on the day.

  • Thursday October 20 / Tortoise Media ‘Think In’

Moderated by James Harding in conversation with Lord Mendelsohn; Baroness Brinton; Dr Lennard Lee, Clinical University Lecturer in Medical Oncology at the University of Oxford; Mark Oakley, Evusheld for the UK; and Helen Rowntree, Director of Research, Services and Engagement at Blood Cancer UK.

  • Wednesday 26 October / Silent Vigil in Parliament Square

Family and friends of the Forgotten 500,000 will stand in Parliament Square with photos of loved ones who cannot be there in person due to the risk of illness. The media will be invited.

Gemma Peters, chief executive of Blood Cancer UK, said: ‘More than one in 100 people with blood cancer have died from Covid, and many thousands more continue to bear the mental health burden of try to avoid it. There is good reason to believe that Evusheld would provide significant protection to our community, and so the government’s refusal to make it available misses the opportunity to do something that would help them both keep them safe and get back a normal life. In doing so, the government is insisting on a level of certainty for Evusheld that goes well beyond the level of certainty it needed before buying the original vaccines in 2020, and letting immunocompromised people down.

Dr Lennard Lee, Academic Medical Oncologist at the University of Oxford and National Clinical Champion for Immunocompromised Patients, added: “Tixagevimab/cilgavimab (Evusheld), developed by AstraZeneca, was approved in March 2022 by the Agency British Medicines and Health Products Regulator. 32 other countries have assessed the evidence, including the United States, Israel and France, and are using it to protect immunocompromised patients this winter. The plan to withdraw from the original winter plan to protect immunocompromised patients is inexplicable.