1.7 million people pushed up the queue for a vaccine - these are the factors used to decide
Around 1.7 million more people will be added to the shielding list in England, pushing them up the priority queue for a coronavirus vaccine.
It comes after experts identified additional adults at serious risk of Covid-19, the Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed.
Letters will be arriving imminently telling people they should be in the shielding group, meaning that around 800,000 adults, aged between 19 and 69, will be pushed up the vaccine priority list.
The other 900,000 are over 70 and will have already been offered their Covid-19 jab.
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The shielding list was expanded after scientists at Oxford University developed a new tool which assesses whether someone is at risk of severe disease or death.
The tool looks at multiple factors including;
- Body mass index (BMI)
- Other health conditions
- Postcode, which is indicative of levels of deprivation.
Around 2.2 million people are currently on the list in England, many of whom were identified for a single reason, such as specific cancers, people on immunosuppression drugs or those with severe respiratory conditions.
The addition of the 1.7 million people brings the number on the list to almost four million.
Some will have already been offered a Covid-19 jab, officials said, but those who have not will be able to get their vaccines “as quickly as possible”.
Officials will be advising that shielding continues until March 31, said Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England.
She said the group, if they join the list, will receive the additional support available to those deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable, including medicine deliveries, priority slots for supermarkets and statutory sick pay.
Dr Harries said: “All of these people who are identified for the first time are those who have not had an individual clinical condition that we’ve previously been able to identify through the clinically extremely vulnerable group, but they are people who have multiple personal risk factors and underlying health conditions which move them into a higher risk group.
“The model that is used combines a number of underlying risk factors. And those factors include specific health conditions, and some treatments which, for example, put your immune system at risk.
“Age, which is the highest risk factor, sex, ethnicity, body mass index and your postcode, which will also link to a deprivation score.
“It provides a weighted cumulative risk of serious outcomes from Covid-19, and therefore allows us to prioritise these individuals for vaccination, and to give them appropriate advice.
“And the easiest way for us to do that is to include them on the shielded patient list.”
Dr Harries said the approach was “risk averse” to “protect as many people as possible”.
“It makes it absolutely clear that it is a choice for them if they choose to follow shielding advice or not – that has always been the case.
“What it does also do – which I hope will benefit them, which is why people will hopefully be grateful to receive this – is it will prioritise them for vaccination.”