Suffering from Autoimmune Disease doesn’t automatically put you at the top of the COVID-19 severely vulnerable list. However, certain medications prescribed to autoimmune sufferers might.  None-the-less, receiving a letter this week, four months after Lockdown, telling me I was on the severely vulnerable list – I wasn’t before – came as a bit of a shock.

I have a few autoimmune diseases. I’ve suffered from psoriasis and scleroderma most of my life. Yet I never knew what autoimmune disease was until I was diagnosed with collagenous colitis and osteoarthritis in my forties.  It seems to me if you have one autoimmune disease, there is a very high chance that another will manifest itself at some stage.

Before Lockdown, I was due a repeat prescription for the various medications I am taking. I emailed my GP with my ‘shopping list’, asking him to top up the supply to see me through Lockdown. Among other pills and potions, I take Sulfasalazine, which reduces the symptoms and slows the progress of arthritis, and Budesonidea steroid widely used for the treatment of ulcerative colitis.

My GP rang me to confirm he had sent my prescription to my local pharmacy. So, with the COVID-19 crisis looming over us, I took the opportunity to ask him how vulnerable I actually was. He confirmed that because I was taking Sulfasalazine and Budesonide, I would be considered to be moderately vulnerable.

I have been careful.  I was locking-down before Lockdown, and I am incredibly fortunate to live with someone who throughout the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak, kept us both fed and watered. I only started masking-up and venturing out three weeks ago. So receiving a letter telling me I am severely vulnerable at this juncture was not something I wanted to hear. 

I trust my GP absolutely, so I sensed wires may have been crossed somewhere. But I was alarmed none-the-less, especially as family members are about to return to their workplaces. So what flagged the change in my vulnerability status?

In September 2019, I was experiencing a great deal of joint pain. I was sent to see a consultant rheumatologist as there was a question mark whether I had psoriatic arthritis. While waiting for my x-ray results, the consultant prescribed a drug used specifically for the treatment of psoriatic arthritis. We discussed the drug in some depth. Not least its rather unpleasant side effects, and agreed I would delay taking it until after I had received my x-ray results. My x-ray results confirmed that I did not have psoriatic arthritis, so I never took the drug.

Ten months after my appointment with the consultant rheumatologist and four months after Lockdown, the hospital flagged my file.  They assumed I was still taking the psoriatic arthritis drug and, if I had been taking it with Sulfasalazine and Budesonide, it would have put me in the severely vulnerable category.

After a reassuring chat with my GP, I am still in the same boat as I was before Lockdown, moderately vulnerable, although my age too, apparently, makes me more susceptible.   On the severely vulnerable list for COVID-19, or not, I’m not taking any chances.

  • This damned virus is here to stay until a vaccine is found.
  • Lockdown is easing, and the populace is relaxing into the new normal.  
  • Jersey’s borders reopened on 3rd July 2020, and the number of  COVID-19 has risen from 0 to 6.
  • During my most recent forays into town, I seem to be the only person wearing a mask. 

COVID-19 does not discriminate.  It doesn’t give a damn how old you are or what category you fall into.

Copy of Let the Sunshine In