The chief executive of NHS England urged young people to get vaccinated (REUTERS)
A fifth of people being admitted to hospital with Covid are aged under 35, the new head of the NHS in England has said, as she urged young people to get vaccinated.
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, warned more than 20 per cent of those seeking treatment were within the age range, up from 5.4 per cent in the peak of the winter wave in January.
But she said there was “no doubt” the vaccine rollout – which has seen more than 32 million double-jabbed – was having a “major impact” in keeping people out of hospital and saving lives.
Ms Pritchard stepped into the role on Wednesday, replacing Sir Simon Stevens to become the first woman to hold the position.
She thanked NHS staff and volunteers for their work throughout the pandemic, particularly as part of the “biggest and most successful” vaccination drive in the health service’s history.
She said: “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.”
Ms Pritchard’s comments came following news the government was working with a number of companies to overcome vaccine hesitancy among young people.
Ministers were said to be in talks with ride-sharing app Uber and food delivery service Deliveroo to offer incentives to those who have been vaccinated.
Vouchers codes, restaurant discounts and social media competitions are reportedly part of the government’s effort to increase uptake.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on Wednesday announced it was advising the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine begin being rolled out to 16 and 17-year-olds – who would not require their parents’ permission to receive it.
JCVI chair, professor Wei Shen Lim, said the committee had heard from groups of younger people that “definitely” want the jab.
Speaking at a Downing Street briefing, he said: “We’ve wanted to hear from children and young people themselves as to what they think, and a lot of feedback we’ve had is that they would like to have the choice.
“So, they’d like to be offered the vaccine, understand the risks and potential benefits, and therefore make the choice if they’d like to have it or not.
“We’ve certainly heard from groups of people who say they definitely want to have the vaccine.
“I don’t think there is, if you will, a fear of the vaccine or any lack of confidence, but as you can imagine, there will be people who choose not to have the vaccine, and that is entirely reasonable as well for them if they want not to have the vaccine, then that is their choice as well.”
Health secretary Sajid Javid confirmed the government had taken the recommendation, and had asked the NHS to prepare for the rollout extension.