Around 1.7 million people are expected to be added to the shielding list in England, after being found to be at high risk from COVID-19.
Half of the group – over 800,000 adults – have not yet been vaccinated so will now be prioritised urgently by their local GPs, the government said.
The news comes after new technology, developed by scientists at the University of Oxford, was introduced to help clinicians identify a new group of people who may be at high risk from COVID-19.
The technology analyses a combination of risk factors based on medical records, to assess whether somebody may be more vulnerable than was previously understood, helping clinicians provide vaccination more quickly to them.
Research, commissioned by England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and funded by the National Institute of Health Research, found there are several health and personal factors, such as age, ethnicity and BMI, as well as certain medical conditions and treatments, which, when combined, could mean someone is at a higher risk from COVID-19.
The University of Oxford turned this research into a risk prediction model called QCovid, which is thought to be the only COVID-19 risk prediction model in the world.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Dr Jenny Harries said: “For the first time, we are able to go even further in protecting the most vulnerable in our communities.
“This new model is a tribute to our health and technology researchers. The model’s data-driven approach to medical risk assessment will help the NHS identify further individuals who may be at high risk from COVID-19 due to a combination of personal and health factors.
“This action ensures those most vulnerable to COVID-19 can benefit from both the protection that vaccines provide, and from enhanced advice, including shielding and support, if they choose it.”
Under the model, up to 1.7 million people are expected to be added to the 2.3 million already on the list. Those within this group who are over 70 will have already been invited for vaccination and 820,000 adults between 19 and 69 years will now be prioritised for a vaccination.