I have been proud to be British for well over a decade, but this week I’m grateful to be American.
Yesterday I flew from London to Denver, Colorado, to get Evusheld, the treatment I need to give me some protection against Covid-19. Over here in the US, Evusheld has been prescribed to people like me for nearly a year. While the UK dragged its feet on decision making, and left those of us who are immunocompromised vulnerable and shielding for two and a half years to protect our lives, Americans in our position have been able get this treatment and return to a more normal existence.
As an American citizen who has lived almost 20 years in Britain, I explored getting this drug in the US in the past, but I didn’t pursue it because at that time it required American residency and we deemed the flight too risky. The flight is still too risky, but after living for nearly 18 months in a flat without my husband and daughter, I am desperate to get home. With the support of a friend who practices medicine here, I am getting the treatment now while it still has enough efficacy to give me time with my family. The percent of variants that escape the treatment are growing worldwide, so I want to get it before those become dominant and it doesn’t offer the level of benefit it offers today.
As one of the 500,000 people in the UK who are immunocompromised and still shielding, making this journey was not an easy decision. I am currently completely unprotected –I have no antibodies from the vaccine and in fact no B-cells to make any myself. As someone with lupus who is taking medicine that suppresses my immune system, I am at higher risk of hospitalisation or even death if I contract the disease. As a result of this I really need any protection I can get, but I have felt both anxious about the trip and devastated that it isn’t an option for the rest of the British shielders.
In an amazing twist of fate, two hours after I took off from Heathrow and while I was still en route to Denver, the maker of the drug, AstraZeneca, announced it would be selling Evusheld privately to UK patients. While the process is still getting figured out, some members of the shielding community have started exploring how to make this happen for themselves. But like my trip to the US, this is not a possibility for everyone. Every single day that passes without this being offered through the NHS as it should be means loss of life and severe illness for those who contract Covid unprotected.
In situations like this one, where every avenue is blocked and it feels impossible to go on, it’s important to have options. And even though it weighs heavily and I won’t feel safe until I’m back home, I’ve taken this decision with eyes wide open. This treatment is not a silver bullet, and like all COVID treatments, its effectiveness is not 100% nor will it last forever. But it provides a layer of protection I don’t have today, and gives me a path forward. I wish everyone in my position had this same possibility.