'I feel like a leper' - Unvaccinated woman tells of jab status reaction

Vanda James, who is medically exempt from having a Covid vaccination

Vanda James, who is medically exempt from having a Covid vaccination - Credit: Vanda James

A woman who is seeking an official medical exemption from receiving a Covid vaccination has told of how her jab status has left her feeling "like a leper".

Grandmother-of-eight Vanda James suffers from a rare condition that leaves her highly susceptible to blood clots and has consequently not received any Covid-19 vaccinations.

However, were it not for her condition she says she would consider taking up the jabs.

But the 63-year-old from Great Yarmouth has said she feels as though unvaccinated people such as herself are being unfairly blamed for the spread of the virus and labelled "extremists and conspiracy theorists".

She said: "I'm not in any way anti-vaccine and I discussed the situation with my GP, who was quite neutral but ultimately I feel like I have to do what is best for my own health. If I were to go ahead and the worst happened I would feel like I had done it to myself."

Her GP advised her that there is a process whereby medical exemptions can be granted, which she is in the process of applying for.

But she added: " I now feel a little ostracised by this, almost like a leper. It seems to me like unvaccinated people are being dismissed as selfish and blamed - when people who are vaccinated can spread the virus too."

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Ms James is in the process of applying for a certificate to confirm her medical exemption, but added that she feels all those who have not received their jabs are tarred with the same brush.

She said: "I am not an extremist and I am not a conspiracy theorist, I just wish people would be more understanding that some people have good reason not to be vaccinated.

"If I did not have my condition I perhaps would not have been the very first in the queue to get one but I would certainly have given it serious thought."

And Ms James added that she has found people treat her differently on learning of her vaccine status.

She said: "I recently lost out on a potential date because of it - I got talking to somebody and as soon as they found out I had not been jabbed they wanted nothing to do with me.

"My friends have also been a little reluctant to include me in holiday plans as they worry I won't be allowed to go certain places. 

"I don't advertise the fact I'm not vaccinated unless I'm asked and even sometimes feel like I have to lie - I just wish the unheard voice of the unvaccinated can be heard."

What are medical exemptions? 

While the vast majority of people are encouraged to receive their vaccinations as the most effective way of protecting health services and people from the virus, some people can be medically unable to receive the jabs.

The government has introduced an exemption process whereby people can apply to prove they are physically unable to receive the jab.

According to the government website, the possible reasons for medical exemption are as follows:

  • People receiving end of life care where a jab is not in their best interest
  • People with learning disabilities and impairments which mean vaccinations can cause distress
  • People with severe allergies to all currently available vaccines
  • People who have had severe adverse reactions to first doses
  • Other medical conditions which allow for exemptions

Medical exemption should be sought through 119, with application forms only sent to those who are deemed eligible.

Those without medical exemptions are still strongly urged to seek vaccines, with booster jabs now available to all adults in Norfolk and Waveney.


A previous version of this story said Ms James already had a medical exemption for the Covid vaccination. However, her application for an exemption is still outstanding. We are sorry for any confusion.