How we responded to Covid-19.
The last year has been like no other for the entire kidney community. Kidney patients were advised to shield, yet many had to visit hospital regularly for dialysis. It was a frightening situation with very real consequences. Before the vaccine rollout, one in five people receiving dialysis in hospital or with a kidney transplant who contracted Covid-19, died within four weeks.
Our task was to support the kidney community as best we could, while making sure the charity could survive the storm. Our income was hit hard by cancelled events and a squeeze on our supporters’ finances. We had to make some difficult choices.
To reduce our salary bill, we furloughed around half of our staff, and many others agreed to a pay cut. We also decided not to fund new research until we were confident of our financial position. These were tough blows, but we had to make sure we could meet existing commitments, get projects back on their feet after the forced pause, and react quickly to urgent needs.
Responding to need
We took rapid action when funding was requested for research deemed vital for kidney patients in the pandemic. This included two important studies – both financed in partnership with others – aimed at reducing the danger of Covid-19 to people with kidney disease.
The first – a clinical trial called PROTECT-V – is investigating if a tapeworm treatment can prevent Covid-19 infection in some of the most vulnerable kidney patients. In laboratory experiments, the drug (niclosamide) stopped Covid-19 multiplying and entering the cells of the upper airways. PROTECT-V has since been prioritised by the government as an urgent public health trial, and is being rolled out quickly in hospitals across the country.
The second study aims to solve uncertainty over how effective the Covid-19 vaccines are for kidney patients. It’s initially testing their effectiveness in people on dialysis, which will help us find out how kidney patients can get maximum protection, and what risks remain.
We won’t have the full results of the vaccine study for a while, but the danger of Covid-19 to kidney patients means that having the jab is still an essential precaution. That’s why we joined a government campaign urging people with long-tern health conditions to have theirs.
When we heard that misinformation about the vaccines was creating fear in some communities, we added clear and up-to-date vaccine information to our website. To support the cascade of accurate information, we developed training for our peer educators and Christian, Sikh, Hindu and Muslim faith leaders.
Back up and running
Thanks to the response from our supporters, and by building closer links with other organisations, we were able to tentatively restart our research funding schemes first in June 2020, and then award more grants just before the close of the financial year.