More than one-fifth of people admitted to hospital with Covid-19 are aged between 18 and 34, according to the new NHS England boss, who is urging young people not to delay getting vaccinated.
The NHS England chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, said the proportion of patients aged 18-34 in hospital had nearly quadrupled from 5.4% at the peak of the winter wave in January to reach more than 20% last month, with 5,000 seriously ill in hospital.
Pritchard warned that young people “are not immune and the best way they can protect themselves absolutely is to get that vaccine if they haven’t already”.
In an interview with the BBC she added that the NHS was making it “as easy as possible to protect yourself, your family and your friends”, with pop-up clinics and walk-in sites adding to the 1,600 permanent sites already in place.
Take-up of the vaccine has been slowing among young people in recent weeks, with some feeling that the benefits do not outweigh concerns about side-effects or the hassle of obtaining an appointment.
Last week, doctors warned that increasing numbers of young people with coronavirus were being admitted to hospital – including to intensive care wards. Case rates are highest for people in their 20s. In that week, about 250,000 18- to 30-year-olds had their first or second dose of a Covid vaccine.
Experts have called for clearer information and messages from role models to persuade the remaining third of 18- to 34-year-olds to take up their jab.
New university students moving into halls of residence are considered a priority before the new term to avoid repeats of the coronavirus outbreaks that took place last year, which resulted in thousands of students being locked down in small rooms. Last month, ministers were considering making vaccine passports obligatory for students, but they later abandoned the idea.
Pritchard said the vaccine programme was having a “major impact” in keeping people out of hospital and saving an estimated 60,000 lives.
She said: “Thanks to the hard work of NHS staff and volunteers, almost nine in 10 adults have had their first Covid-19 vaccination and more than 32 million have now had both jabs as part of the biggest and most successful vaccination drive in health service history.”
Pritchard, who was previously NHS England’s chief operating officer, took over as chief executive from Simon Stevens on 1 August.