Responding to the announcement that an additional 1.7 million people are being added to the shielding and vaccination priority list following the development of a new risk assessment model1 in England, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said:
"The BMA has long highlighted the fact that people from an ethnic minority background, especially with underlying conditions, are at high risk of death from Covid-19 and that those from poorer areas are also twice as likely to die from this terrible disease. Both of these groups are now included in this new QCovid risk tool.
“Many of these patients fall outside of the current JCVI priority groups for the Covid vaccine and so it is now vitally important that these patients are prioritised for vaccination and urgently protected against the deadly effects of Covid-19.
“Additionally, adding a large swathe of the population to the shielding list at short notice is a process that needs to be very carefully managed.
“Understandably, this will be concerning for those who will now have to shield and may be questioning why, at this stage, they are being asked to do so - as well as having to manage fears over the implications for their lives going forward.
“It is also important the Government works to mitigate the barriers that shielding presents for many, including those who are key workers, cash and gig economy workers, or those living in overcrowded housing and the knock on effect this may have.
“It is therefore crucial that those being placed on the shielding list because of this new risk assessment tool are given proper financial support as well as adequate information and reasoning to help them through this difficult transition.
“This is particularly true of harder to reach populations such as some members of BAME communities where there will be a need for more effective communication and engagement.
"Equally, the impact of shielding on mental health and wellbeing, at a time when many may have been expecting a relaxation of measures, cannot be underestimated and there must be appropriate access to mental health support for those who need it.
“This also highlights the importance of urgently progressing in this field to ensure that we can effectively identify those most at risk as quickly as possible.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.