A mum with a rare health condition which means Covid vaccines may not work for her has pleaded with people to carry on wearing masks – saying she feels like the government views her as “expendable”.
Jane Edwards is one of tens of thousands who say next week’s “Freedom Day” will in fact be the opposite, as she faces heightened risk while cases spiral.
The 46-year-old, from Stamford in Lincolnshire, found out she had not developed antibodies after her first jab.
She suffers from vasculitis, a disorder which inflames her blood vessels, and campaigners say lives are at risk as the Delta variant rips through the country.
There are doubts over how effective Covid vaccines are for people with conditions affecting the immune system – with studies finding those with blood cancer are in the same position.
From Monday next week Covid laws will be lifted in England, meaning masks will no longer be compulsory and people will be able to gather in large crowds indoors again.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has admitted this could see the daily number of cases swell to 100,000 a day, putting people like her at heightened risk.
Jane, who has had to shield throughout the pandemic, told The Mirror: “It makes me feel very vulnerable and fragile.
“It makes me feel like my government has decided that I am expendable. The narrative of ‘well those who died had underlying health conditions’ sounds like it is ok for us to die.”
As cases fell and restrictions eased, Jane started to “return to the world”, as she felt relatively safe with measures in place.
But she now faces difficult choices as these measures are lifted.
Jane said: “Freedom Day means that those things that protected me are no longer law and will not be consistently used. I have seen many social media conversations about how masks infringe the rights of people.
“Yet, without them, it means that the risk to me and millions of people who are immune-suppressed will now be at high risk from Covid-19.”
Jane, who has been given two vaccine doses, is taking part in a trial monitoring how effective they are.
She said: “I have to take daily steroids, and every four months, I have a biological infusion to prevent the immune system from overreacting. Both these things make me more vulnerable to Covid and mean that I may not respond to the vaccine as well as other people.
“I have had an antibody test after my first vaccine, and it came back negative.”
She is still waiting for the result after her second vaccine.
As well as the anxiety she faces, Jane said it has weighed heavily on her two children, aged 10 and 15 – who both go to different schools.
She said they have been “incredibly sensible”, but added: “The stress on them to not pass Covid to their mum is high, and when over 500 children are isolating in my eldest child school makes us extremely nervous.
“The numbers in schools have rocketed after the removal of wearing facemasks in May – I assume the population will now experience a similar increase as we ‘enjoy’ our freedom.
“So, I will not fully shield, but I will not be going into public places after Freedom Day.”
Jane, who has written a book, Chronic Illness: Learning to Live Behind My Smile about living with her condition, said she can’t face going back to complete shielding – but a return to normal feels a long way away.
Throughout the pandemic she has been able to work from home, but said she would have felt comfortable going back if masks and social distancing were compulsory.
She said: “Masks, vaccines, and social distancing are not about protecting yourself; they are about population protection.
“The vaccine does not stop you from getting Covid, and it does not prevent you from passing Covid to others.
“We need to work together as a community and look after the most vulnerable.”
Jane urged people to carry on wearing masks, stating: “Wearing a mask is not a hefty price to pay to save lives; these little things have saved lives.
“Think of your community, please.”
This is echoed by charity Vasculitis UK, which has called on people to continue social distancing and wearing masks.
Trustee Susan Mills told The Mirror: “Wearing a mask isn’t an infringement of human rights, you’re just helping other people through a bad time.
“All we’ve got to do is to do it a little bit longer to give them a better chance to come through it.”
New documents published on Monday night advise the vulnerable to meet outdoors or to look for ventilated places.
New guidance issued by the government says: “Although the vast majority of the population, including the clinically extremely vulnerable, will be well protected by the vaccine, no vaccine is 100% effective and there is emerging evidence that suggests that some immunocompromised and immunosuppressed individuals may not respond as well to COVID-19 vaccines as others.
“However, all Covid-19 vaccines should offer some degree of protection. Therefore, it is really important that you have both your first and second dose of the coronavirus vaccine.”