Almost two million people in England urged to shield and promised priority coronavirus vaccination

Almost two million more people are being urged to shield themselves from coronavirus and promised early access to a vaccination after experts identified additional adults at serious risk of Covid-19.
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Around 1.7 million more people are being added to the shielding list in England and letters will be arriving imminently.

The list was expanded after scientists developed a new tool which looks at multiple factors including age, ethnicity, body mass index (BMI), other health conditions and even postcode, which is indicative of levels of deprivation, to assess risk.

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Those newly identified as being at higher risk will get priority access for vaccines, officials confirmed.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Jenny HarriesDeputy Chief Medical Officer for England Jenny Harries
Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Jenny Harries

Officials will be advising that shielding continues until March 31, said Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England.

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She said new additions to the list would receive the additional support available to those deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable, including medicine deliveries, priority slots for supermarkets and statutory sick pay: “We have a new, evidence-based, data-driven, predictive risk model which allows us to identify adults with multiple risk factors that make them more vulnerable to Covid-19,” she said.

“We can now identify additional people and help protect them now and in the future.

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“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.

“As we learn more about Covid-19, we’re continuously reviewing the evidence… it was very clear that not all of those individuals who were at risk were identified by the binary approach.

Dr Harries said the approach was ‘risk averse’ and intended to ‘protect as many people as possible’.

“The letter will note that this is more likely to be an overestimate of risk in a way which hopefully handles any of their anxiety,” she said.

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“And 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.”

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