Young people warn of long Covid in NHS vaccination drive

Young patients experiencing the debilitating effects of long Covid have urged people to get their vaccine in an NHS video.

The video features three previously healthy people in their early 20s and 30s, including a man who thought he would die with the virus in hospital.

It comes as 16- and 17-year-olds in England have been invited to book their first doses from Monday. The offer extends to at-risk people aged 12 to 15 before they return to school in September.

People aged 18 to 34 make up more than one in five of those admitted to hospital with the virus, which is four times higher than the peak in winter 2020, the NHS has said.

Quincy Dwamena, a 31year-old a support worker, described himself in the video as a “healthy young guy” who went to the gym often and delayed getting the vaccine – but became seriously ill.

Dwamena, from east London, said: “I ended up being hospitalised and thought I was going to die. My advice is to get the vaccine: don’t put yourself and others at risk, I wish I’d got mine as soon as it was offered.”

Megan Higgins, 25, and Ella Harwood, 23, were previously healthy and active but were now experiencing extreme fatigue because of long Covid.

Higgins, a special needs tutor from London, said: “It’s now been eight months since I tested positive and I can’t even walk around the shops without getting exhausted. Long Covid is debilitating, so please, get vaccinated. I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through what I have.”

Harwood, an illustrator from London, said: “I’m young and fit but I was bed-bound for seven months with Covid-19. Before I caught the virus, I was super-active and had no health concerns, but I now suffer with asthma which I didn’t have before and a number of allergies.

“I fear I’ll never be the same again but I’m making progress and I’m very grateful that I’m still alive.”

Having two doses of the vaccine approximately halves the risk of experiencing symptoms that last more than 28 days after infection, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Public Health England figures show people aged between 16 and 29 are most likely to develop long Covid; however, vaccine uptake among this age group is lower than average, particularly in London.

Speaking in the NHS video, Dr Emeka Okorocha, an emergency medicine physician, said most of the young people admitted to hospital with coronavirus were unvaccinated.

He said: “As an A&E doctor, I’ve seen a lot during the pandemic. But nothing has shaken me like the sight of young, otherwise healthy adults being rushed into our hospitals with Covid-19. As well as their age, many of them have one other thing in common: they are unvaccinated.”

The government has launched “grab-a-jab” pop-up vaccination sites, including at Heaven nightclub in London and at football stadiums and festivals across the country.

The health secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “I encourage everyone to come forward for both their jabs as quickly as possible as vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from serious illness.”

NHS England has also launched an online walk-in site finder to help people locate their nearest GP-led vaccine centre from the 800 available.

A total of 89,070,370 people have been vaccinated in the UK, including 47,573,794 people with a first dose (87.5%) and 41,496,576 with a second (76.3%).

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