COVID-19 vaccine priority groups expanded as 1.7m added to shielding list

More than 800,000 extra patients will be prioritised for COVID-19 vaccination after a major expansion of the shielding list based on data from a risk assessment tool.

COVID-19 vaccine (Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)
COVID-19 vaccine (Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)

Around 1.7m additional patients have been identified as being at increased risk from COVID-19 based on a combination of factors including age, ethnicity, BMI and medical conditions or treatments.

Of these, around 820,000 are outside the over-70 age group already offered a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by the NHS and will now be prioritised for a jab.

These patients have been identified through a population risk assessment by NHS Digital, based on a risk prediction tool called 'QCovid', developed by the University of Oxford and thought to be the world's only reliable COVID-19 risk prediction model.

COVID-19 risk

The tool picks up risk factors from medical records to determine whether patients 'may be more vulnerable than was previously understood' to COVID-19.

Patients identified by the risk assessment will receive a letter from NHS England explaining that they are now being included within the support and advice for patients deemed 'clinically extremely vulnerable' and that they will be invited to receive a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible if they have yet to be invited.

These patients will be 'given advice on precautionary measures, including shielding where this is current advice', and their GPs will be informed.

Deputy CMO for England Dr Jenny Harries said: 'For the first time, we are able to go even further in protecting the most vulnerable in our communities.

Shielding list

'This new model is a tribute to our health and technology researchers. The model’s data-driven approach to medical risk assessment will help the NHS identify further individuals who may be at high risk from COVID-19 due to a combination of personal and health factors.

'This action ensures those most vulnerable to COVID-19 can benefit from both the protection that vaccines provide, and from enhanced advice, including shielding and support, if they choose it.'

NHS Digital chief executive Sarah Wilkinson said: 'I’m very pleased that NHS Digital has been able to deliver the platform to allow the QCovid model to be used to identify individuals vulnerable to COVID-19 as a result of combinations of clinical risk factors and personal characteristics. This extends the work we did last year to develop the shielded patients list.'

The research behind the tool was commissioned by CMO Professor Chris Whitty and funded by the National Institute for Health Research - and the QCovid tool has been independently validated by the Office for National Statistics.

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