The new head of the NHS in England has urged young people to get a coronavirus vaccination, warning that more than a fifth of those admitted to hospital with Covid-19 are aged between 18 and 34.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said there is “no doubt” that the jabs rollout is having a “major impact” in keeping people out of hospital and saving lives.
NHS England said patients aged 18-34 made up more than 20% of those admitted to hospital last month, up from close to one in 20 – 5.4% – at the peak of the winter wave in January.
Ms Pritchard, who took up her new role this week, paid tribute to the work of health service staff as she visited a vaccination clinic in Reigate, Surrey, on Wednesday.
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.
“There is no doubt that the NHS vaccination programme is having a major impact, keeping around 52,000 people out of hospital and saving an estimated 60,000 lives.
“However, we must not forget that there are more than 5,000 people who are seriously ill in hospital with Covid, and more than a fifth of those admitted are young people.”
She urged people to “not delay sorting your jab”, saying the NHS is making it “as easy as possible to protect yourself, your family and your friends”, with pop-up clinics and walk-in sites bolstering the 1,600 permanent sites already in place.
Ms Pritchard told the BBC that about 1,000 young adults are currently “really unwell” in hospital, adding that the number of them being admitted to hospital is four times higher than the peak last winter.
Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said his children are “very keen” to get a coronavirus vaccination.
It was announced on Wednesday that the jabs rollout is being extended to 16 and 17 year-olds, with first doses expected to be offered this month.
Mr Shapps was asked by Sky News if he would be happy for his teenage twins to have the jab.
He said: “Yes, absolutely. They are very keen to be vaccinated as well. They are in that age group, the 16 to 17 age group, and it is amazing, particularly towards the end of term, how many of their friends had coronavirus and how much time they had to spend off school.
“So they understand the disruption, the amount of their own lives, their own schooling, that has been affected by this and they are very, very keen.”
On whether 12 to 15-year-olds will be offered a Covid vaccination, Mr Shapps said: “We will wait for the experts from the JCVI to tell us when it is safe.”
England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said extending the rollout to that age group has not been ruled out.