Healthy people in 20s and 30s receive Covid jab invites
- Credit: Danielle Booden
Young people with no known health issues are receiving invites for Covid jabs, as Suffolk blazes ahead with the life-saving vaccine rollout.
As Saxmundham beat the entire country on Thursday with two-thirds of over-16s vaccinated and Suffolk coming second nationally, healthy individuals not known to have any underlying conditions say they have been called in for first doses.
NHS chiefs say the vast majority of younger recipients being vaccinated now will be health and social care workers, unpaid carers, and those on shielding or clinically vulnerable lists.
People over 56, anyone over 16 with a health condition, unpaid carers and young people in care homes are the groups being prioritised currently in Suffolk.
Health bosses said it may not be obvious to young people why they are being invited, adding: "Chances are, there will be a very good reason for it based on the information their GP holds on them, and we advise them to go along and get vaccinated."
People in their 20s, 30s, and 40s in Suffolk described their surprise at being called in for first jabs.
Rachel Warner, a 25-year-old teaching assistant from Great Blakenham, does not have any health conditions.
She had her first jab last Saturday, and admits she was “shocked” to receive her invite by text in late February.
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Just over 41% of the eligible population in the Needham Market South and Great Blakenham neighbourhood area had received first doses as of February 28, which is in the middle ground as 30 areas had achieved over 50% by that date.
'I thought it was a scam'
Lee Noble, 33, lives in the Ipswich Central neighbourhood area where a quarter of the eligible population had been vaccinated at the end of February.
He received his jab last Thursday.
"I got a text message saying to book, and I actually thought it might have been a scam at first," he added.
"I was pretty excited about getting it - I work at an essential retailer which has been open for most of the pandemic, so that has been pretty stressful and getting the jab has helped reassure me a bit.
"Plus the sooner everyone has the vaccine, the sooner I can see my friends and family, so I was more than willing."
He had his jab in Debenham, adding that staff were well organised, friendly and "doing a great job".
Three more Ipswich men in their 40s said GPs had invited them for first jabs, despite no known health conditions.
Why are younger people receiving invites?
In some areas, primary care networks (PCNs) of GP surgeries have vaccines available and when they have finished more vulnerable cohorts, they are sometimes able to move to the next age group down.
But people aged 50 and over are far more likely to be approached and it is doubtful GPs are down to those in their 20s and 30s already, a CCG spokesman added.
People offered jabs under 50 may be in at-risk groups, or something on their medical record has led to them being called in. Some may also be recorded as clinically obese.
Health bosses could not pinpoint definitive answers as to why healthy people we spoke to in their 20s, 30s and 40s are being offered jabs.
Everyone over 56 in Suffolk can now book their vaccine via the national NHS system online, regardless of whether their GP has been in touch.
What are supply levels looking like?
In the past fortnight, the availability of appointments at mass vaccination centres, including Trinity Park and Gainsborough Sports Centre, has fluctuated with limited space put down to national problems with supply.
Health secretary Matt Hancock remarked on lower vaccination rates nationally in late February after the race to jab 15 million at a Downing Street briefing last Tuesday, describing day-to-day figures on supply as “lumpy”.
But the West Suffolk MP assured that throughout March, there will be some “bumper weeks ahead”.
This is what NHS teams have been told locally, with next Monday (March 15) earmarked as the date supplies will be boosted again.
Currently, the mass vaccination centres in Suffolk and north Essex are understood to be operating using a 'push' model, which means staff receive details of supply levels the week before and allocate the number of vaccination appointments accordingly.
Ipswich residents trying to book their jab told this newspaper space has been limited at mass vaccination sites such as Trinity Park.
One woman, who is in her 30s and has underlying health conditions, said the booking system itself was easy to follow.
She managed to secure a slot but said it was clear demand was high, with a limited number of appointments available.
Bosses at the Suffolk GP Federation, which runs the centre, said it is no secret that the national vaccine supply has been lower in recent weeks.
It has meant people trying to secure appointments at a specific centre may have been faced with a smaller number of slots or none at all, as sites are only notified at short notice what the supply will look like for the following week.
However, if there are no slots available at their nearest centre, patients are able to book at the federation's other sites.
Gainsborough Sports Centre chiefs said that jab appointments are currently mirroring supply.
Suffolk is continuing to fly ahead in the national vaccine rollout and came second only to Somerset and level with Dorset in the number of jabs given to over-16s last week.
And efforts are being stepped up to tackle low jab uptake rates in some areas, with a vaccine bus rolled out in the county on Tuesday.
The bus will start its tour of the region by visiting neighbourhoods in Ipswich town centre, including BAME communities, where uptake has been low both locally and nationally.