NHS under pressure to distribute vaccines near expiry date as youth uptake slows

Ministers fear demand for the vaccine has dropped off in young people.

The government hopes to encourage more young people to take the vaccine.

The NHS is being urged to redistribute thousands of vaccines which are nearing their expiry date as demand from young people falls.

According to an internal email seen by The Guardian, 170,000 doses of Moderna are at risk of expiring in the next couple of weeks, with doctors raising the alarm that more could yet be wasted.

Sign up to our NationalWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

We want to hear from you: let us know what you think about this story and be part of the debate in our comments section below

At a glance: 5 key points

- The Guardian reports that 40,000 of the Moderna jabs have been successfully redistributed. However, concerns remain about the number of jabs wasted due to take-up among young people being unpredictable.

-The government is set to tackle this drop in demand with measures such as discounts on Uber and Deliveroo to encourage young people to come forward for jabs.

-Part of the problem also lies in the fact that Pfizer and Moderna have a shorter shelf-life than Astra-Zeneca, yet the latter is not being used on under 40s due to concerns over adverse effects in this age group.

- Doctors have told the Guardian that doses are also going to waste due to the fact that young people coming forward early for their second vaccine are being turned away.

-The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation recommends an interval of eight to 12 weeks between doses, with studies showing that a longer gap can offer greater long-term immunity.

What’s been said

Beccy Baird, a senior fellow at The King’s Fund, told the Guardian that vaccine uptake among young people is becoming more difficult to predict.

“Uptake is getting lower as the cohorts get younger and matching the supply of vaccines to demand will get harder as demand becomes less predictable. This is made all the harder as the vaccines have a limited shelf life,” she said.

“Making sure that everyone who wants and needs a vaccine can access both doses at the right time, and at a convenient location, is a complex task on a huge scale and it’s testament to all those involved in the vaccine programme that so many people have already received both doses.

An NHS spokesperson said: “The NHS is continuing to encourage vaccine uptake among young people by jabbing at convenient locations and popular destinations, including Thorpe Park and Latitude festival as well as community hubs at places of worship and shopping centres.

“There is plenty of vaccine supply and everyone aged 18 or over is now eligible for a lifesaving Covid jab, which is why the NHS is urging people to come forward as soon as possible to protect themselves and their loved ones.”

Background

The latest data on vaccine take-up indicates that 60% of 18- to 25-year-olds have received at least one jab.

Government ministers fear, however, that the demand is beginning to level off.

They are now planning to offer discounts on services like Uber and Deliveroo to encourage more young people to take up the vaccine when offered.