Nicola Mendelsohn feels like 'footnote' in successful vaccine roll out

Facebook’s Europe Vice President Nicola Mendelsohn who has incurable blood cancer says she feels like an ‘inconvenient footnote’ in the vaccine success because she has no Covid antibodies despite two jabs

  • British advertising executive, Lady Mendelsohn diagnosed with cancer in 2016
  • Nicola, 49, from Manchester, has incurable blood cancer follicular lymphoma
  • Cumulative treatment stopped during pandemic as the executive is too high risk 
  • Her Covid antibody tests was negative despite having two doses of the vaccine 

Facebook boss Nicola Mendalson said she feels like an ‘inconvenient footnote’ in the successful vaccine roll out, dubbing those with blood cancer ‘forgotten victims of the pandemic’. 

The 49-year-old businesswoman, from Manchester, who is Facebook’s Vice-President for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, was diagnosed with Follicular lymphoma in 2016.

Despite having two doses of the vaccine, tests for the Covid antibody three weeks after her second jab came back negative, meaning that the mother-of-four isn’t protected against the virus. 

She said on Lorraine today that those with blood cancer are still ‘stuck’ in lockdown as the rest of the country opens up, with no idea whether they are protected against Covid even if they have the vaccine. 

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Despite having two doses of the vaccine, tests for the Covid antibody three weeks after her second jab came back negative, meaning that the mother-of-four isn’t protected against the virus

Facebook boss Nicola Mendalson, pictured giving a seminar in London, said she feels like an ‘inconvenient footnote’ in the successful vaccine roll out

‘We’re here at this point now in the UK where everyone’s getting very excited’, she said. ‘The country is opening up and getting back to some sort of normal which is fantastic – but people like me with blood cancer can’t. 

‘It really does feel now like we’re the forgotten victims of the pandemic, and in many ways we’re a bit of an inconvenient footnote in this otherwise really great success we’ve seen with the vaccine, so we’re a bit stuck’.

Last month a study from King’s College London stated that more than half of cancer patients may not be protected against coronavirus after a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine. 

According to Blood Cancer UK there is still not a clear picture of how successful the vaccine will be at protecting people with the disease from Covid. 

She said on Lorraine today that those with blood cancer are ‘stuck’ in lockdown as the rest of the country opens up – with no idea whether they are protected against Covid even if they have the vaccine

Nicola went on: ‘There’s about half a million people in the UK living with a compromised immune system and about 230,000 of them have some form of blood cancer. 

‘We were always at much higher risk from Covid, but the early evidence is showing the vaccine is much less likely to work for us. Where we are now, nobody, if they’ve got blood cancer, really knows if we’re protected by the vaccine.

‘We’ve heard the people who were very vulnerable were the people that very early on got the vaccine. We’ve herd of people going out having both the jabs and and getting Covid and sadly some people who have died. ‘ 

What is follicular lymphoma?

Follicular lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and develops when the body makes abnormal white blood cells. 

The most common symptom of the blood cancer is swelling in the neck, armpit or groin. 

Other symptoms include tiredness, weight loss, night sweats and fevers.

The cancer is slow-growing and does not always require immediate treatment.

Any treatment usually involves a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

Source: Macmillan Cancer Support 

Mother-of-four Nicola says that the lack of research into vaccine effectiveness for those with cancer is ‘really cause for concern’ and says that it doesn’t just impact her, but her family too. 

‘It’s not like my family can now go out’, she said . ‘Even though they are vaccinated, because they still pass it on to me, I have no antibodies at all.’ 

The mother wants the government to fund more research into how the vaccine is working, and include those with comprised immune systems in vaccine booster shot trials.  

Nicola’s cumulative cancer treatment was stopped because she was too high risk during the Covid-19 pandemic and it cannot be resumed – with doctors unsure when her illness will return. 

‘I am well’, said Nicola. ‘I was having treatment which had to stop last year when the pandemic started and it was accumulative treatment which would have taken place over two years. 

‘So now i’m back to what is called watch and wait. At some point it’s going to come back, we don’t know when and so the doctors will monitor me and we wait for that day. Hopefully it’s a long way off though.’ 

Last year Nicola launched the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation (FLF), which is dedicated to helping people with the disease to live well and get well. 

It will achieve this by funding research to find new treatments and cures for Follicular lymphoma, and supporting patients and their families affected by the disease by creating information resources.

Speaking on BBC2 last year, the mother said she tries not to think about the fact her disease is terminal.

She added her four children take comfort in the fact she’s still working despite her incurable cancer diagnosis, because it reassures them that she’s ‘alright’.

‘I try not to think about that, erm, I think [my children] try to not think about that either,’ she explained.

‘They say that they see how I am, they look me, and I do ask them, I’m asking them all the time, “How are you about it?” and they go, “Well, you’re alright Mum, if you’re working, if you’re living what seems like our normal life, then we’re OK”.’ 

Nicola told how she is determined to find a cure for the incurable disease through her newly-established charity, and believes it can be done in her lifetime with the right funding and publicity.  

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