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Quarter of a million under-40s prioritised for vaccination by QCovid

AI GP triage tool

More than a quarter of a million patients aged under 40 have been prioritised for a Covid vaccination, after being added to the shielding list by the QCovid risk algorithm, analysis by Pulse has found. 

Last month, the Government cleared QCovid for use in England, and announced that 1.7 million people would be added to the shielding list, including 820,000 aged 19-69.

NHS Digital figures published on 22 February show that there were more than 1.5 million new patients on the shielding list, of which 275,000 were aged under 40. This includes roughly 202,000 30-39s and 72,000 18-29s.

Also, more than a third of all those added by QCovid (577,000) were aged between 40-69, with 683,000 over-70s – who are already eligible for a Covid vaccination due to age – also included.

In terms of gender, the NHS Digital data from 22 February shows a near equal split in terms of patients added by QCovid, with 787,000 women and 747,000 men. 

Last month, NHS Digital said some young, healthy women were being told to shield due to previous gestational diabetes, and that the QCovid risk tool is being ‘actively reviewed’ – later announcing that GPs are also allowed to manually remove patients in certain cases

Approximately 35,000 women have either pre-existing or gestational diabetes each year in England and Wales, according to NICE

The tool, which the Government had initially expected to implement last year, takes into account a number of clinical factors which in combination make patients more likely to suffer severe illness, hospitalisation and death from Covid-19.

It has been described as targeting the ‘top 2% of the population that is at the highest risk from Covid who were outside the shielding list’.

Risk factors include age, gender, ethnicity, deprivation, BMI and underlying health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Data for QCovid patients broken down by clinical conditions is, however, not available, as the algorithm uses a range of inputs to calculate risk.

Last week, Pulse reported that over 400,000 patients may have been given an inflated risk score under the QCovid algorithm, with default values being used where certain information is missing from available records, including for BMI and ethnicity.

There are currently 3.8 million people on the shielding list in total, although patients on the list have been told they can stop shielding from 1 April. Shielding was also paused last year while virus circulation was lower in the community.