As the Covid-19 vaccination programme continues in full force across the UK, the Government has given the go-ahead to begin offering jabs to people aged 64 and over as well as frontline health workers and those considered vulnerable.
But, as i reported earlier this week, there have been several instances people in their twenties and thirties who have been offered the vaccine despite not fitting into any of the current priority categories.
NHS England has been clear that only people in the top six priority groups outlined by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)should be invited to get their vaccine. And although Primary care networks (PCNs) are encouraged to maintain “reserve lists” of people who can be called in at short notice if any vaccine is still available, these should still only be drawn from “eligible recipients” who are in groups one to six of the priority list.
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But i is has heard from of increasing numbers of people in their 30s or younger being given their vaccine despite not meeting any of the priorty criteria and with no explanation.
‘I thought it was a scam’
Alaina Mutti, 26, lives in Pinner, Harrow, with her parents where she runs Janson and May, a property buying agency, with her mum.
“I got a text a few days ago asking me to get a vaccine and I immediately thought it was a scam, so I didn’t click on the link and instead actually shared it on Instagram to warn people of what I thought was a scam message. Some of my friends replied and said their siblings had been contacted and it’s a legitimate text – but their siblings or friends had underlying health issues so I thought it was still not quite the same as I don’t have any health issues that I am aware of.
“I called my GP and the woman said, ‘No this is fine, it’s a legitimate text, you should book it in,’ and before I could even ask if it was correct she got me off the phone. So then I called the centre to book the test and the man I spoke with was confused and said he was surprised as to why I would be invited to get the jab. He told me to contact my GP again so I emailed but did not hear anything from them.
“My plan is to take my Dad with me, who is over 60 and has not been vaccinated, and tell the person I am 26 with nothing wrong with me and ask if he can take my slot instead. But at the same time, I don’t want to screw up the way it’s organised – what if that ruins my chance of having it in a few months time? I read in the i article that one person said they felt it was cheating the system and I feel the same. If anything the older people need it first.”
‘I am pretty confident I don’t fit into any of the priority groups’
Michael Marshall, 37, lives in Liverpool and works at The Good Thinking Society, which works to reduce anti-vaccination influence and promote science and evidence based thinking.
“When I got the text message at 2pm on Tuesday, one of the things that factored into my decision was that I had seen stats indicating that vaccine take up in my area was higher than average, and I had also seen a few other people who had been sent messages saying can you come in today. I booked a slot for 4.30pm that day because I thought there was a risk that they would not fine someone to fit into that.
“I don’t have any healthcare issues and I am pretty confident that I don’t fit into any of the priority groups. But I tried to weigh up how likely it was that they would be able to fill the appointment, and I thought the problem would not be fixed by patients phoning up their GP and questioning the system. When I went to get the jab, they just asked for my name, they saw I was on the list and they brought me in. I was really impressed by how smooth the operation was.
“I know how much damage the anti-vaxx movement can have on medicine so it’s great to see the numbers being so high. Being in the room and seeing how many people who were willing to take it and how brilliantly and efficiently it was being run it was really impressive, I was really encouraged to see it.”
‘No one looked surprised or questioned why I was getting the jab’
Sarah Blower, 33, lives in Finsbury Park, north London, and works in digital marketing.
“I got the text message last week. Mostly I thought it was going to be some kind of scam or fraud, so I called my doctor’s surgery. I said I had just had a text about getting my vaccine booked it and I wanted to check it wasn’t a mistake. They really didn’t care. I said I didn’t think that I would have got this so soon and she just said, ‘Yes we have sent it out to quite a few people this morning’.
“I clicked on the link and they had a slot within the hour so I just booked it and left straight away. When I go there no one looked surprised or questioned why I was there even though everyone else was probably in their sixties. I didn’t even notice any looks or anything.
“I feel like because I checked with the doctor it was OK, especially because my appointment was an hour later I thought that it wouldn’t get booked by someone else and I didn’t want it to be wasted.”
‘There was one vaccine left and it was going in the bin unless I wanted it’
Rose Smith*, aged in her late thirties, lives in south east London.
“I am just in the under-40 age bracket, with no health conditions that put me in a high-risk category. I was fully expecting to wait until the autumn for my first vaccination. However, I was called by a the relative of a close friend – a GP – on a Saturday night in January. They’d spent the day vaccinating vulnerable patients at our local surgery and all the staff were about to go home. They had one Pfizer vaccine left and it was going in the bin unless I wanted it and could get to there in the next 15 minutes.
“I was surprised to say the least – at this point my parents had not yet been vaccinated and I felt conflicted. Should I go? My mind ran through all our older neighbours; I was confident that they’d all been given their first dose. I was reassured by the GP that other at-risk patients had been contacted, but this was a give-it or bin-it call. So I went.
“I felt privileged to have received it, but decided not to tell others outside my close family as it has become apparent that the practice of giving vaccines out to friends and family to avoid wastage can be very divisive. However, I do feel that wastage of these precious vaccines is indefensible, and that NHS staff that avoid it are doing their best.”
*names have been changed to protect the anonymity of the individual.
NHS England has been approached by i for comment.