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After much campaigning, lobbying and hard work from the Forum, some gender-sensitive Covid advice has finally emerged from the central government machine.
In its latest announcement, the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation continues to prioritise the vaccine by age - a strategy the Forum agrees with - but, in addition, the JCVI 'strongly advises that males promptly take up the offer of vaccination'. In a letter earlier this month, the Forum had asked the JCVI to properly highlight the greater risk faced by men.
The JCVI are also calling on those in the NHS deploying the vaccine to work with local health systems and organisations like the Forum to reach out to men clearly to encourage vaccine take-up.
The age-led vaccination roll-out means that after nine phase-one priority groups, the vaccine will next be offered to all those aged 40 to 49 years then all those aged 30 to 39 years and then all those aged 18 to 29 years. As well as men, the JCVI also strongly advise people from a BAME community, those with a BMI over 30 and residents of poorer neighbourhoods to accept the vaccine as soon as it is offered.
Forum CEO Martin Tod said:
We are very pleased that the JCVI has taken this opportunity to explicitly target men and encourage them to get vaccinated. There are many increased risks factors for Covid and people need to be aware of all of them - including being male. We hope the government will now do all it can in its advertising and public communications to ensure than men get the message.
Our letter of 17 February 2021 expressed 'our disappointment' with the JCVI’s guidance on Covid-19 vaccination released in December 2020. We pointed out that by seriously underplaying men’s greater risk of serious morbidity, the guidance risked 'significant issues once the vaccination programme extends to the working age population'.
In its statement on phase 2 of the vaccination programme, the JCVI says 'deployment teams should utilise the experience and understanding of local health systems and demographics, combined with clear communications and outreach activity to promote vaccination in these groups' (men, people from a BAME background, people with a BMI over 30 and those living in poorer neighbourhoods).
It’s tough for men to ask for help but if you don’t ask when you need it, things generally only get worse. Especially during a major pandemic like Covid-19. So we’re asking.
Men appear more likely to get Covid-19 and far, far more likely to die from it. The Men's Health Forum are working hard pushing for more action on this from government, from health professionals and from all of us. Why are men more affected and what can we do about it? We need the data. We need the research. We need the action. Currently we're the only UK charity doing this - please help us.
Here’s our fund-raising page - please chip in if you can.