If you’re young with no health conditions and offered the vaccine, just take it

Anyone who is contacted for vaccination would be advised to take it (Picture: Julian Benjamin)

A few weeks ago, a 26-year-old male was booked into my surgery with a note to me from reception: ‘Has questions about vaccination.’

As GPs, we’ve received many vaccine-related queries.

Examples include: which is the best vaccination to have? (They’re all potentially life saving so take whichever you’re offered.)

Are the vaccines safe? (Yes, all have passed rigorous testing and analysis by independent bodies.)

And my favourite – would I have the vaccine myself? (Yes, I’ve had both doses.)

But this call was different: The 26-year-old British Asian on the phone had been offered the vaccine and wanted to know why – and whether he should take it.

Looking at his record, I couldn’t see an indication as to why he was offered it. In fact, I couldn’t see a record of him ever coming in at all.

What seemed like an anomaly proved to be the first of a few as this man wasn’t the only one.

Over the following weeks, similar queries came in from younger patients who were anxious at the suggestion they may be at more risk than they thought. It wasn’t a trend I’d noticed alone – other GPs have reported the same.

And our advice to any young people contacted for a vaccination is simple: take the jab.

But why is it happening? At the heart of this is the Qcovid risk algorithm, which is used to determine the risk of catching, being admitted to hospital with or dying from Covid-19.

The algorithm includes various health risk factors including age, sex, ethnicity, body mass index (BMI) and past medical history to determine your risk before you are contacted for vaccination. 

Why have healthy young people been contacted? Well for some patients who don’t have their weight or ethnicity recorded, the Qcovid algorithm automatically ascribes them to the highest risk ethnicity and BMI groups, bumping them up to the highest risk categories by default.

For young males who barely go to see their GP (only 10% have their weight on record) this could account for why they are receiving vaccination notifications. Young females who may have had temporary conditions in the past – like diabetes in pregnancy – have also been flagged at a higher risk despite recovering fully. 

The higher the uptake of the vaccine, the closer we are to achieving a safer society for all (Picture: Dr Mohammedabbas Khaki/@drmokhaki)

While this suggests the Qcovid algorithm could be finetuned, it serves as an important reminder to update your medical records with your GP so your risk profile can be accurately assessed.

Whatever the reason, it’s difficult for GPs to go against the Qcovid risk scoring system as many patients move around and there may be a past medical indication your doctor is unaware of.

Anyone who is contacted for vaccination would be advised to take it. Of course, we don’t want to delay vulnerable people from having their vaccinations, so if you believe there’s an error contact your GP and they can check with you.

Sadly, I have heard from younger patients who’ve been contacted that they have received some backlash for taking the vaccination.

One 29-year-old female I spoke to – with a previous history of depression – was quite distressed because she had been contacted for a vaccination but was fearful of ‘what people would say’ if she took it.

It’s important to remember that not all disabilities and health conditions are visible. In fact, most aren’t.

If a younger patient has been offered a vaccination, let’s avoid passing judgement and remember that no one can skip the queue through their own will or determination.

In fact, the younger patients who I have spoken to haven’t called requesting a vaccination – rather most are seeking reassurance that they should have it, and are keen to comply with the guidance.

Regardless of the small cohort of errors, it is uplifting to see that more than 23million people have had their first vaccine to date. Young or old, this is good news.

The higher the uptake of the vaccine, the closer we are to achieving a safer society for all and some semblance of a return to normality.

Face masks are unlikely to be going anywhere soon, but the chance to be close to loved ones, as well as the reopening of schools and the economy are exciting positives that we can look forward to provided we continue at this rate.

A wide uptake of the vaccine will go a long way to protecting us all from the devastating effects of Covid-19 and ‘long covid’ – a long-term debilitating condition affecting one in five people who contract Covid-19.

At a time when we are coming through the greatest challenges we’ve faced – the loss of loved ones, the impact on our businesses, the struggles with mental health – the vaccine is a ray of hope that there is a way out of this.

A cursory look at countries around the world in the midst of Covid-19 devastation, and desperate to receive their first doses, highlights how privileged we are to be offered this potentially life saving vaccine.

Let’s not forget that and let’s continue to take that opportunity. 

Young or old, if you are eligible for the vaccine don’t worry about the naysayers or those questioning you: get vaccinated.

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