Treatment for COVID-19 is available for people with certain types of cancer, like lymphoma, who may be at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19, despite vaccination. They help to manage the symptoms and reduce the risk of you becoming seriously ill and needing hospitalisation.
A person’s risk will depend on many factors such as the type of lymphoma, the treatment they are having or have had, when this treatment was, and what other medical conditions they may suffer from. Available evidence suggests that it includes the following groups of people:
- People who have had a splenectomy.
- People who have low-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma even if you have not required treatment for many years.
- People who have received a stem cell transplant, radiotherapy or chemotherapy in the last 12 months.
- People who have received a donor (allogeneic) stem cell transplant with active graft versus host disease, regardless of the time from transplant.
- People who have received CAR T-cell therapy in the last 24 months.
This is not a definitive list, and if you are unsure if you are eligible speak to your GP or specialist team will be able to offer advice that is specific to you.
It is important to note that in Wales those deemed as high risk and possibly eligible for treatment also includes those over 70 who live in a care home or who are in hospital.
The treatments available for people at high risk are:
Paxlovid, remdesivir and molnupiravir are all anti-viral medications. Sotrovimab is a biological medicine which sticks to the virus and stops it from getting into your lungs and causing an infection.
Some of the treatments are given as tablets or capsules, whilst others as a drip into your arm. A doctor will decide which is most suitable for you.
If you are eligible for treatment, it is very important that this is started as soon as possible. How you access treatment depends on the Nation you live in.
In England you can find more specific information as to how to get treatment from your local integrated care board (ICB) but in general the process is as follows:
- Keep lateral flow tests at home. If you are eligible for treatment, make sure you always have a supply of lateral flow tests at home. You can collect these from your local pharmacy.
- If you get symptoms take a test. Only take a test if you have symptoms, even if these symptoms are only mild. If you have no free lateral flow tests available at home, you can use a test that you have paid for.
- If your test is positive call your GP surgery, 111 or specialist team. Call as soon as possible after your positive result. If they decide that you do indeed need treatment, they will assess you or refer you for an assessment. If the treatment, you need is in the form of tablets or capsules this will be prescribed and a friend or relative can collect it on your behalf. If the treatment needs to be given via a drip you will usually get this at your local hospital.
- If your test is negative, do a test on the next two days.
In Scotland treatment for COVID-19 is available from your local NHS Health Board. How you access this is as follows:
- Keep lateral flow tests at home. If you are eligible for COVID-19 treatments you should always try to keep lateral flow tests at home. You can order a free pack online, or by calling 0800 008 6587.
- If you develop symptoms take a test. Only take a test if you develop symptoms, even if these are only mild. Once you have taken the test make sure you report it either online or via 119.
- If your result is positive contact your local health board. Call as soon as possible after your positive result. They will decide if treatment is suitable for you, which one is best and make all the arrangements for you to access it. The numbers can be found here. Remember to stay at home.
- If your test is negative do another test on each of the next two days
In Wales the only treatments available are Paxlovid or sotrovimab. How you access them is as follows:
- Keep lateral flow tests at home. If you are high risk and eligible for treatment you should keep a supply of lateral flow tests at home. You can order a test online for home delivery or by calling 119.
- If you develop symptoms take a test. As soon as you develop symptoms, take a test. If it is negative take another test on the next two days.
- If your test is positive fill out a self-referral form. You can fill out the COVID-19 Antiviral Self-Referral Form online, call 111 or call your GP. You may be referred to your local health board’s antiviral service for an assessment.
- If you are eligible for treatment you will be contacted within 48 hours. You may be offered treatment via a text message or telephone call. You have to reply to the text message with either ADVICE if you want to be contacted by a member of staff with more information on how to receive treatment, or DECLINE if you no longer want treatment.
- Call 111 if you believe you are entitled to treatment but have not been contacted. If you have not been contacted within 48 hours but believe you should have been contact 111 who will then refer you to the National Antiviral Service
- If you live in a care home the staff will contact your Health Board to arrange a different type of test
Treatment for COVID-19 in Northern Ireland is available via the five Health and Social Care (HSC) Trusts through the following process:
- Keep lateral flow tests at home. If you may be eligible for COVID-19 treatments it is important that you stay alert to the symptoms of COVID-19 and always have a supply of tests at home. You can get these from your local pharmacy.
- If you develop any symptoms take a test. As soon as you develop any symptoms, no matter how mild, take a test. It is important that you report the result especially if it is positive. If it is negative take another test on each of the next two days
- You will receive a text message. If you are eligible for treatment you will receive a text message advising that your local HSC Trust will be told who will review your information
- You will receive a follow-up phone call. If you are identified as being eligible for treatment your local HSC Trust will ring you to discuss treatment and how to obtain it. If you need tablets of capsules these can be taken at home, and you will be told how to get them. If you need it via a drip this will need to be given at your local hospital and you will be given all the information you need to get it.
- If you do not get a text message or follow-up phone call contact your GP. If you do not get a text message or phone call but you think you should have done speak to your GP or specialist team for help
If you have COVID-19 and take treatment, the treatment will reduce your risk of developing severe symptoms and needing hospital admission. You are also more likely to recover quickly.
In order to do this, it must be started within 5 days of the symptoms starting (Remdesivir can be taken within 7 days).
Not all the treatments available are suitable for all people and you will be assessed for the most suitable one. It is also important with all the treatments that you mention any medications you are taken, even over the counter ones.
For Paxlovid it is important that you mention any of the following, if you:
- are pregnant, trying to conceive or a breastfeeding
- have had an allergic reaction to Paxlovid or any other medication
- have problems with your liver or kidneys
- are intolerant to lactose or galactose
- have lactase deficiency or glucose-galactase malabsorption.
It is important that you mention if you are pregnant, trying to conceive or are breastfeeding, or have had an allergic reaction to sotrovimab before.
For remdesivir it is important that you mention if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have problems with your kidneys or liver, or are immunosuppressed.
With Molnupiravir it is important that you mention if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or you have had an allergic reaction to it before.
Common side effects to treatment are:
- nausea and vomiting
- or changes in your taste.
In addition sotrovimab can cause an itchy rash or redness and warmth to your skin and Remdesivir can cause a headache in up to 10% of people.
In rare cases serious allergic reactions called anaphylaxis can occur.
If you or someone you live with continues to be at high risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19, you may find the following pages useful: